Opinion: P-TECH programs prepare high school students for STEM careers. Here’s how.

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Litow and Kelley are co-authors of “Breaking down barriers: How P-TECH schools bridge the gap from high school to college and career. “He lives in New York. She lives in Maplewood, New Jersey.

How often are high school students excited enough about their biotech lab work to post photos on Instagram? They do this at San Diego Miramar College as a collaboration between a public school, community college, and business partner seeking qualified and diverse applicants. The program, involving students from Mira Mesa and Scripps Ranch High Schools, has 43 freshman and sophomore students, of whom about 80 percent are considered under-served and 70 percent are women.

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“These are STEM-minded students who are very excited to make friendships,” said Kimberly Teston, who leads the program. “They are so thirsty for practical tips and knowledge. They are ready for it.

They’ve had online visits to Pfizer, their business partner, and Ms. Teston responds to inquiries from companies looking to hire students straight from high school, or with just a certificate from Miramar College.

Across California, six similar collaborations, including one in Anaheim, have formed thanks to the $ 10 million College and Career Access Pathways (CCAP) grant, which helps students transition from high school to college and careers in technology, health care, agriculture or manufacturing. These programs have grown from an education model that has expanded over the past decade to 150,000 students in nearly 300 schools in 12 states called P-TECH, for Pathways in Technology Early College High School.

The PACC grant couldn’t be more timely. California community colleges have lost an estimated 320,000 students since the pandemic and are grappling with high demand for remedial courses, resulting in low graduation rates. In California, four out of five community college students needed these uncredited courses, but nationally no P-TECH student needed them. The P-TECH and CCAP programs can help community colleges improve retention, graduation and transfer rates.

Globally, 13 percent of California community college students graduate with associates in two years, while in New York state poor and minority P-TECH students graduate from college at a rapid pace four times superior to their peers. In the California version of the program, students earn up to 15 community college credits per term, and studies have shown that once community college students have 30 credits, they are very likely to graduate.

If the model spreads, it may eventually help increase enrollment and completion rates at community colleges here and in other states. In Dallas, for example, 18 P-TECH schools have one in eight high school students, and the state has opened 100 statewide. It is actively developing them using $ 7.6 million in public funds over two years, as well as federal COVID-19 funds through the Texas Education Agency. If California followed suit, with, say, 200 schools of 500 students each, those 100,000 new community college students could help solve the state’s enrollment crisis.

These collaborations are a clear and affordable solution to many failing areas of our education system. It costs school districts little, mostly in planning grants and tuition, which can be covered by a combination of districts, cities, states, and federal aid. It provides community colleges with well-prepared students who graduate on time, without costly and demoralizing remedial classes. And it gives businesses access to a pool of local and diverse talent trained in the skills needed for available positions. Most importantly, it helps students see that they can excel through a rigorous curriculum, regardless of race, income, and grade in elementary school.

The program’s links with high-growth occupations are clear. At Magnolia High School in Anaheim, aspiring ninth graders are given white caps before their first day of attending a new CCAP cybersecurity program. “White Hat Hackers” are computer security experts who use their powers ethically to protect a company’s computer systems, and Magnolia in Form 70. Nearby Cypress College offers free classes to students from the ninth year. One hundred students applied to the program in the first year; in the second year, that number tripled.

Most P-TECH graduates are students of color or from poor families, who entered the program through a lottery, without having to pass potentially discriminatory entrance exams. Of graduates, 80 percent choose to continue their education in four years. When hired by P-TECH business partners, many have worked their way up through the ranks to managerial positions, helping to provide a diverse pool of employees at tech companies that have been far too busy. isolated for too long.

Jamie Keledjian, a cybersecurity teacher at Magnolia High School, enjoyed watching his students enthusiastically search for Linux commands and share their results. “We really do have an effect on their trajectory, on the direction of their life after they graduate from high school,” she said.


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