Curious Capitalist

Foroohar: To Compete, America Needs 6-Year High Schools

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Buddy Mays / Corbis

Back in April of 2012, I wrote a column touting a 6-year high school in Brooklyn as a model for a new kind of secondary education. On Friday, President Obama traveled to New York to visit this same school, the Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH), where he discussed the importance of ensuring that the next generation of middle class American workers and entrepreneurs have the skills they need to compete and win in a global economy.

In his State of the Union Address earlier this year, the President lauded the P-tech school, which is a collaborative effort between New York public schools and City University of New York and IBM, which donates time, expertise and mentors, but no money. Student at P-tech, many of whom will be the first in their families to graduate from high school, will come out with not only a high school diploma, but also an associate’s degree in a high-tech concentration like computer science or engineering. As the President put it, “We need to give every American student opportunities like this.”

In fact, there’s a strong argument to be made that P-tech should be the future of high school nationwide. Hundreds of billions of dollars of government money, as well as countless man-hours of time and energy are spent trying to get kids to graduate from high school. But the truth is that a high school degree is, in today’s economy, largely worthless. Of the 14 million new jobs that will be created in this country over the next decade, nearly all will require at least a 2-year associates degree.

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Having only a high school degree means a future of $15 bucks an hour or below. But only a quarter of students who enter community colleges actually graduate (the rates are only slightly better at 4 year schools). Meanwhile, many of them that do graduate have skills that aren’t suited to the jobs they’ll actually need. We’re graduating too many sports marketing experts, and not enough web programmers, and so on.

Enter IBM, and the vision for the 6-year high school. A few years ago, Stan Litow, the former vice chancellor of the New York City Schools, joined IBM and began working on a solution for what the company believed was its biggest long-term economic challenge — the skills gap. IBM could find plenty of PhDs, and plenty of lower level workers in both the US and abroad, but it didn’t have the people to do the millions of jobs in the middle — entry level software engineers, marketing executives, sales force, even skilled assistants.

Training the middle-income workforce of the future is the core of the P-Tech model. Aside from exponentially beefing up the science and tech curriculum, P-Tech schools do something even more radical — they turn 4 year high school into 6 year high school, in which students not only graduate with an associates degree, but are guaranteed a job with IBM. The company doesn’t give the schools any money — they use what’s already in state and local budgets — but it sends full-time staff to make sure they have a curriculum that will teach kids the skills, hard and soft, that they’ll need to get a middle class job (in classes known as “workplace learning,” kids are taught how to present themselves in meetings, speak in public, argue their points constructively, all the things you need to thrive in the corporate world). Students also get a corporate mentor to guide them throughout their educational career.

(MORE: These Schools Mean Business)

The model started in Brooklyn, but it has since spread to Chicago, New York state, and other spots nationwide. Corporate interest has grown too — dozens of blue chip firms, including Microsoft and Cisco, are signed on to work with schools like this in other cities. The model not only fills their own labor needs, but encourages a more competitive workforce in general — kids that have an associates degree are much more likely to get a 4 year degree and even more advanced education.

While the concept is new, it’s possible that the P-tech model may actually shift the definition of secondary education itself. In the Brooklyn school, 40% of the kids are on track to actually complete the 6-year curriculum in 4 years. If the 6 Year High School becomes the norm, it will be the biggest reset for education since the U.S. made high school itself mandatory after WWII. That’s when we realized that shifts in the global economy had made education beyond 8th grade essential. It’s not hard to make the argument that we’re at another such inflection point now. For more on P-tech and what it might mean for national competitiveness and secondary education in the U.S., check out the latest episode of WNYC’s Money Talking, where Joe Nocera, Charlie Herman, and I discuss the topic.

69 comments
LloydApachekidMartinez
LloydApachekidMartinez

How do you explain those with advanced degrees running this Country yet all they do with the Education is Network and pad each others bank accounts? It would seem the more education you have the more problems one could solve. However, we see that isn't the case in the running of this Country.  Explain that!

OzarkGranny
OzarkGranny

There was a time when IBM and other companies hired low skilled workers.  Some of them who showed aptitude received on the job training and became skilled workers.  Now companies want the tax payers to provide the training to create a high skilled workforce and maybe, just maybe the company will hire  them.  

Mariah76857
Mariah76857

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SteveYuhas
SteveYuhas

Six year high schools with a tech or STEM-heavy curriculum presumes that we have a sufficient number of Americans that are interested in those subjects AND that we will scale back the number of foreign students we allow to come to America to learn in our colleges and universities. When a school like MIT only has 500 spots for a freshman class and they reserve 1/4 of their seats for foreigners, we have a serious problem. Americans need to see that some degrees are not worth getting and instead of paying for degrees that don't matter, maybe we can start doing things with public policy that allow the best and brightest to succeed. Giving everybody that wants low-interest loans for school, for instance, should end. Let the private sector lend money and do away with Pell Grants. You should have to come out of college able to get a job and support yourself in the future and not just return to mom and dad's house with tons of debt.

lkim65
lkim65

The premise this article is based on is absolutely false.  We do not have a skills gap.  There are plenty of well qualified STEM experienced American workers.  Corporations just don't want to hire them; they want to hire the cheap foreigners through the H-1B visa.  And the government continues to let corporations abuse the visa program.  So this claim that there is a skills gap is utter B.S.

QueenPhillippa
QueenPhillippa

This is the stupidest idea I have heard of in a long time. It is the most obvious case of pandering to corporations and wrong-minded academics who do not care about people or their lives. A young adult must have enough training to go to work immediately upon earning a high school diploma. No 17 to 19-year-old should have to incur thousands in debt to qualify for a job they could learn in a 4 year high school program.


Stop this madness before it becomes as destructive as standardized testing.

Uncle_Frank
Uncle_Frank

Not every student is destined to go on to higher education and an advanced college degree. This country needs apprenticeship programs such as in the German education system. A special system of apprenticeship called Duale Ausbildung allows pupils on vocational courses to do in-service training in a company as well as at a state school.

LisaBaker
LisaBaker

Yes, legalize and tax marijuana nationa wide with 100% earmarked for education, and like the ACA, require 85% to go to education and not administration.  Of course, if you are going to increase the age of high school students, then middle school will be a lot longer.  We can't seriously put 9th and 10th graders in with 13 and 14th graders.  The point of making High School 6 years and not going with the Junior College/Tech school route, is to make is very nearly mandatory, in the sense, most jobs still at least require a High School Diploma (or equivalent).  And, vocational courses would be availalble to all starting in the lower grades, then, as electives, and the entire future population would benefit by some basic knowledge about electricicy, plumbing, carpentry and automaitenance, that would improve their future home economic situation and therefor, the general population.  People on tight budgets only postpone maintenance, they don't hire it out anyway.  And we all know that not doing the maintenance costs more in the long run.  It's common sense, and we can look to other countries to see how they do it.  It's not like we have to re-invent the wheel all the time.  It's not 'rocket science' :)  And by legalizing marijuana, and un-privitizing prisons (they go hand in hand), that frees up BILLIONS AND BILLIONS of state tax dollars better spent on education anyway.  And new treaties with Mexico et al would free up BILLIONS AND BILLIONS in internation drug crime.  A side benefit is breaking up cartels and turning them into the first generation "Robber Barrons" in their countries.  In two generations, they are the elite class in society, initially funded on what was considered criminal behavior.  Just like in America! :)  

Whatanotion
Whatanotion

Seems a bit similar to a two year tech school degree post regular 4 yr high school.  4+2 = 6.  Usually came with financial aid etc.  The natural breaking up of gender co-ed due to specialization also allowed for better discipline control, which is a major roadblock to the present "school is for hooking up" situation.

MichaelHornbackII
MichaelHornbackII

I'm curious about the cost of the extra two years. States don't pay for those years, normally. Is New York making an exception here? I doubt very seriously this would become mainstream due to the huge costs associated with adding two full years of education. States have a hard enough time funding the first 13 years. There is no way states can afford these increased costs. Any idea on who we can get these costs covered?

Adamwb
Adamwb

Ugh, we don't need MORE. We need BETTER. The system and curriculum has major inherent problems, and adding 2 more years of it won't do anything. More of a bad thing does not make it a better thing. I'm not claiming to have the answers, but I'm extremely disappointed by the education my kids are getting. If I had time I would home school them. It's that bad. This is my opinion of course, but I can't imagine there are very many parents that are happy about how their children are being taught.

sgarvey101
sgarvey101

I'm sure the bloated bureaucracies and teachers' unions love this idea. Unfortunately, what the public will get is two more years of expense with little to no result. The author of the piece is living in lala land if she thinks the public will support MORE public education.  How about public education focus on doing a good job for the first 13 years, then we can talk about expanding.

evan13579b
evan13579b

Yes kids need to spend even more time living in the alternate reality where learning academic knowledge is 1/100th as important as learning how to survive in that unique social environment where you are stuck seeing the same people everyday and you cannot escape. And where part of learning to survive that unique social environment literally involves learning that academic knowledge is uncool, that sports are the most cool things to learn, and that playing the trombone is actually useful.


While we are at it we should try to design a curriculum that is even more useless. I've heard that schools do not yet teach underwater basket weaving.

MartinHutchison
MartinHutchison

How about instead we expect good behavior from students (even if they are black and we are too scared to be called racist if they get suspended), and we expect actual competence from teachers, and we expect curricula to focus on learning actual facts and logical methods before we let teachers dumb them down with politics and liberal social brainwashing? Turning adults into children because classrooms have become PC laboratories.

ClayTravisJewBe
ClayTravisJewBe

More years of exposure to an already dysfunctional public education system?

lol.. Sounds like a plan.

SpokaneMelissa
SpokaneMelissa

I'm not sure why 6 years is needed, many students in WA do a program called Running Start and graduate from high school with an associates degree in 4 years. These students take classes at their local community college that also fulfill their high school graduation requirements.

SamuelClemens
SamuelClemens

Bad. bad, idea. Ontario used to have Grade 13, not sure if they eliminated it. Just another wasted year of arrested adolescent development.

It makes sense to push late adolescents into the company of adults in secondary education. It makes no sense to hold them back with younger children in High School.

rutnerh
rutnerh

6 years of wasted time! We need to dump current foolish liberal approaches and adopt revised curricula focused on teaching analytical skills and practical applications requiring more not less home work, with less emphasis on trivial liberal arts courses. And we should use more audio visual aids in large classes with teachers serving mainly as facilitators to answer questions and to monitor students. As needed uniformed school guards should be called to help maintain order or to remove unruly students. Simply copy the curricula of countries like India, Singapore, etc where students have traditionally excelled in international scholastic competitions. Being s student is a privilege to be desired and respected not a right to waste time or to disrupt teaching.

ggmary
ggmary

Common core is the new set of learning standards that many states have adopted.

In New York, kids did miserably on the PAARC common core tests.  Florida was going to use the common core tests, but backed down when they saw the New York results.

I like giving an "end of semester" exam.  If you don't pass it, you retake that semester.  That way, students will actually have learned the material and don't waste a whole year of 2 semesters to find that out.

We already have ACT and SAT tests to get into college.  You don't even need those to get into a community college.

ggmary
ggmary

Kids who act out in high school should be sent to other schools so they don't ruin education for the others in the class who are trying to get an education.  Many of those alternative schools were closed when budgets were cut.  So the "troublemakers" get sent back to the high schools they were sent away from.

littleredtop
littleredtop

What America actually needs to do is quit trying to educate those who are not educable and those who don't wish to be educated. 

ggmary
ggmary

Business needs to step up to the plate.  Stop downgrading all jobs and pay while the executives earn salaries and bonuses that no human being is worth.  They sit on each others' Boards of Directors and just boost their own income at the expense of the workers.  This has been going on since the 1980's, but it is so noticeable now.

Individual taxpayers have a minimum alternative tax that they have to pay so they can't avoid paying taxes.  Let's make businesses always pay some taxes, an alternative business tax, too.

darla
darla

I have both and associates and a bachelors degree in Computer Science with 13 years of experience. I work a customer service job making minimum wage. So a degree is no guarantee of a job if there are no jobs available!

ggmary
ggmary

Let's do like Israel does.  Complete high school and you do 2 years of military service.  That will make most of the teenagers grow up so they take college seriously.

glennra3
glennra3

Two more years of high school? That is just one more way to delay entry into adulthood.


Instead, how about increasing the school year from the current 180 days to 210 days (the average in Asia)? 

ggmary
ggmary

My children grew up in New Jersey.  The state had great preschool programs, with licensed teachers running the "before kindergarten" schools.  That is worth putting extra money into.  It would help most students to get ready for the rigor of K-12.  I live in Florida and the preschool situation is awful.   For most kids, it is babysitting.  Pre-K is a half day program.  So is Head Start.  So the kids start K-12 at a disadvantage.

In the Orlando area, Orange County, you can't go to a vo-tech until 11th grade and only if you haven't been in trouble in high school.  We are not serving a good portion of the high school population.  Many of them just drop out.

The 2 year community college system works well here and it was rated the number one community college in the U.S. by a prestigious Denver area evaluation group.  If a student needs any remediation, they take a few extra courses in Reading or Math to get ready for the college level classes.  In today's marketplace, a 2 year degree in a tech area pays well. 

The high schools compete for "grading" and part of that is counting how many students are in AP classes.  So students who should no be in those classes, sign up or are put in there by the overzealous guidance counselors who want to get the school a higher overall grade.

We need to serve the customers, the students, instead of serving the administrations.

SmoothEdward1
SmoothEdward1

Interesting idea, but I suspect all this will do is cheapen the two-year degree, which is already limited in its value. We should also remember that funding for a college education, even a two-year degree, is quite different than for high school, which comes out of public funds. How will these extra two years be funded?

mary.waterton
mary.waterton

My only fear is that Washington [esp. Department of Education & National Education Association] will eventually try to take over the community college system. "Fusion" implies takeover.

The Federal Government destroys everything it lays its hands on.

tom.litton
tom.litton

@SpokaneMelissa They are talking about vocational training, to develop skills needed for a specific job, not college prep.  There is little or no overlap between the 2.

tom.litton
tom.litton

@SamuelClemens So you would be fore it, if, for example, they just expanded community colleges to allow all students in for free, and make it required?

fiery
fiery

@rutnerh Your idea of school sound heinous.  Maybe your "liberal" education was wasted on you, but that's what a liberal education means — that you have been taught analytical and critical thinking skills.  Studies have shown that more homework hasn't added to helping the students learn more.  Teachers are not meant to be merely facilitators, but as engaged guides who can create a love of learning in children.  We'd be worse off if your idea of school ever became a real thing.

SamuelClemens
SamuelClemens

@rutnerh Dumping the liberal arts is a bad idea. After 40 years in IT, I can say the ability to be a good analyst is related directly to scope and depth of intellectual curiosity. The value of specific technical knowledge evaporates in a few years. The ability to think is the thing of long lasting value. That said, a solid science and math foundation is part of the scope and depth of intellectual curiosity along with the humanities.

207207
207207

@rutnerh 

Absolutely concur.  Eliminate the dumbed-down, feel good curricula.   Here  in Maine, per SAT and other objective test results, only 50% of HS students are performing at grade level, yet we have one of the highest graduation rates in the nation.  People somehow seem amazed that we also have a pathetically low percentage of those graduates able to complete any sort of post-secondary education or training.  Tremendous complacency in the general public.

nstaley401
nstaley401

@ggmary What happens if you have an exam like that, the teacher will only teach to the exam 

SamuelClemens
SamuelClemens

@ggmary Bad strategy. End of semester exam does four evil things. First it makes everything else a joke up to then, hey, teach this doesn't count, so why should I do it? Second it subverts the value of the feedback during the learning process. Third it sets the student up for one big final failure rather than earlier ones that could have given warning on an emotional as well as intellectual level. Fourth it fails to include measurement of the achievements of what was done during the semester in favor of artificial questions and answers as the only units of production for the entire learning process. There in lies the devil's seduction - it is easier for those doing the measurement, rather than caring if the measurement reflects any meaningful reality. In which case, I suggest we assign grades on the curve using the running average of sunspot activity.

FSM
FSM

@ggmary Yup, lock em up, that seems to have helped our country out so well. How many murders are there per year in the US?

FSM
FSM

@littleredtop

ed·u·ca·bleˈejəkəbəl/adjective
  1. 1.able to be educated."we must have teachers who believe that every child is educable"

SamuelClemens
SamuelClemens

@darla Slacker. Don't you know that there is a "skills shortage" so severe we must flood the market with cheap foreign labor. We must drive your wages down until you earn the same as a rickshaw driver. Apparently we are succeeding. We must break the back of the evil middle class that leaches off the "job creator" super economic elite who must be supported to accumulate ever more wealth. Don't listen to that IEEE, what would those losers know? Most of them were stupid enough to acquire American college education debt, so how smart can they be?

DeweySayenoff
DeweySayenoff

@ggmary I'd substitute "civil service" instead of strictly military service because some people just plain are not able to handle the military training, but could do well otherwise if the program required discipline and teamwork.

DeweySayenoff
DeweySayenoff

@glennra3 One COULD argue that given the lack of maturity in kids these days (not that all kids were all that mature back in the day, it's just worse these days), that their entry into adulthood is already delayed. 

But I like the idea of another 30 days of school.  In fact, I'd go one further and prepare them for your basic job by requiring 5 days/week, 8 hours/day and only 2 weeks of "vacation" each year.

SmoothEdward1
SmoothEdward1

@mary.waterton I wish people would stop repeating that falsehood. The Federal government has its flaws but it does not destroy everything it lays its hands on. In fact, it does many things well, so well you take them for granted because they work all of the time. It's this constant disrespect and trashing of government that has put us in the position we are in today, where the people that go to Washington, often hold your views and wind up crippling its operation.

SpokaneMelissa
SpokaneMelissa

I'm still not sure why it would take six years. High school students take a ton of electives, why couldn't their electives be replaced with technical classes that can actually be used to get a job? My husband taught at a high school in Stockton, CA where the kids were trained to be paramedics, car mechanics, etc. They still graduated in four years.

sgarvey101
sgarvey101

@tom.litton @SpokaneMelissa 

Actually, In NJ, we offer dual enrollment between our high schools and community colleges that graduate students with both a high school diploma and an associates degree in 4 years.  Each county in NJ also has a tech high school that does the same. These aren't "vocational" schools but instead teach core high school academics along with college level STEM courses.

MartinHutchison
MartinHutchison

@fiery @rutnerh Liberal education does not teach analytical and critical thinking skills. It teaches PC dogma straight from "1984". Humanities are full of pet theories developed by people with little allegiance to the scientific method. Witness the global warming hysteria that once was global cooling hysteria in the '70 and is now renamed climate change- yet the professors and publishers of humanities "science" admit in private (as the LA Times admitted in public) that they block opposing points of view. Humanities should be a minor in college, and they should be taught with a huge grain of salt in school.

tom.litton
tom.litton

@SamuelClemens @ggmary While i agree in principle, i haven't heard of any better way to judge if a student is ready for the next level. 

Everything else seems to be either so subjective as to be meaningless, or doesn't scale.

sgarvey101
sgarvey101

@DeweySayenoff @ggmary 

Great. So now we're encouraging the indentured servitude of our young people. Stealing their labor to benefit the "state" is a terrible idea.

SamuelClemens
SamuelClemens

@DeweySayenoff @glennra3 These damn whipper snappers are way more serious than we were back in the day. Many of them don't even drive, for heaven sakes. And their dope is way too strong for us old guys. What's the point of legalizing it if blasts like a volcano (yes, I live in Washington, no not THAT Washington, the good Washington, the one where the sun don't shine this time of year, just below BC, oh never mind). Just saying maybe the kids are alright.

4ppictus
4ppictus

Like AmTrak : )

Like Social Security : )

Like the Health Care Website : )

Need I go on?

teviet
teviet

@MartinHutchison @fiery @rutnerh Right, because geophysics and atmospheric physics are clearly humanities.  Better just dump anything with "physics" in it; those physics researchers are typically funded by big government grants anyway!  And chemistry and biology are even squishier sciences, so let's dump them too.

Actually the only humanities in my (admittedly dated) public high school education were World History, Epistemology, French, and English.

World history: clearly an internationalist agenda!  After all, I'm never going to have to interact with foreign colleagues, or make informed decisions about foreign policy.  Anyway, it's a humanity; dump it.  After all, those who fail to learn from history, have more time to make up their own assumptions!

Epistemology: it's philosophy!  Horrors!  Why would I ever need to understand *how* I acquire knowledge?  Or the different ways of testing knowledge?  How to construct a falsifiable hypothesis?  I can just say knowledge comes from a book, and that's good!  (As long as it's a Good Book.)

French: egad, another internationalist agenda!  If English is good enough for us, it's good enough for everyone.  Speaking of which...

English: why bother i dont need teh comunicasion skilz as long as u undrstand, amirite?

FSM
FSM

@tom.litton @SamuelClemens @ggmary How do you as an adult decide when to move on to a new challenge? Think about the last thing you learned how to do, how did you assess your success or failure? How are you assessed at work? If you have a year end review that doesn't go well, I'm guessing you don't get to go back and do the year over. The real world uses a "I know it when I see it" approach to assessing performance. Course if that was in schools everybody would call it "soft" but done right its waaaaay harder than any test.

Anna888
Anna888

@4ppictus I don't think there's anything wrong with AmTrak. My family used it and absolutely loved it. The most relaxing trip we've ever taken.  

And yes, things break, are not perfect, have to be fixed - that's nature of life. How many things or services built by private companies break or are unreliable?

SmoothEdward1
SmoothEdward1

@4ppictus Amtrak runs very well. It's just starved for funding and forced run on ancient infrastructure that needs rebuilding. Have you even been on an Amtrak train? It's quite a nice experience. I love taking a Metroliner from Connecticut to Washington, DC. Social Security runs well and is one of the most successful social programs ever. The Healthcare.gov website has had rollout problems but how can you judge how well something is run that's only been in existence for a few weeks. The fact is the management of Amtrak and Social Security is fine. Do actually think if private corporations were given the same missions they would be flawless? Private corporations make huge mistakes every day but they don't become political footballs and subject to so much press coverage. Government is often given the mission to meet a public need that no private enterprise will touch. The same politicians who lambast Amtrak's trouble becoming profitable vote against every cost-cutting measure Amtrak might wish to take, such as dumping unprofitable routes, because some of their constituents are negatively impacted. Social Security happens to be one of the best funded programs, with a two-trillion dollar surplus. It has long-term funding issues that need to be addressed because of changing demographics. The politics of doing it is difficult, yes, but if you think private corporations don't have inefficient programs and employees that stay around because of a political constituency inside the corporation, you're not correct. I've seen it time and again in my life.

We need to stop trashing our own government. By and large, our government manages many things well. Funding some of these things can get to be a problem, and those are choices we need to debate, but to just constantly berate government as being incompetent in all it does, is just false.

glennra3
glennra3

@4ppictus 

You forgot the Interstate highway system, landing a man on the moon, ending smallpox (humanity's greatest killer), creating our communications system (from the first transatlantic cable to the creation of the internet to today's communication satellites), ensuring that the food you buy is safe....


Shall I go on, or does your narrow view of the world see oly negativity?

ggmary
ggmary

@4ppictus 

Social security works very well.   I'm retiring next week and I can live off of it because I worked all of my life, except for when I stayed home to take care of my kids.   Bush added the prescription drug plan, but allowed the drug companies to plan how it would work.  So it is expensive to continue.

The health care website will be fixed.  Blame the vendor for not testing it as it went along and for not telling someone that you can't patch something onto a large system at the last minute and expect it to work well.