The Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas touted the district as a model for economic development for the Texas region along the Mexico border. The federal bank also found PSJA’s dual-language curriculum promising; students who are still learning English take some of their classes in Spanish, which has encouraged 3,000 of the student’s parents to enroll in the district’s English-language and GED programs.
The early-college movement counts as its members nearly 300 schools across the United States. Jobs for the Future, a nonprofit that’s a leading voice in integrating issues of labor, K-12 and higher education, lists nearly 50 early-college high schools in Texas alone and 280 across the country.
“There’s a whole set of low-income young people who would flourish and don’t have the opportunity to go to [expensive colleges],” said Nancy Hoffman, a vice president at Jobs for the Future. The four-year college experience is a “luxury for a lot of low-income young people today. And we hope that they can get a two-year degree … [and] at age 20 have a usable credential that can make them independent and responsible.”
Another early-college model has the backing of one of the nation’s most storied corporations. Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH) is a New York City partnership between IBM, the city’s school district, and New York City College of Technology. The school has received major press attention and even got a shout-out from President Obama at his 2013 State of the Union Speech.
Unlike other early-college models, P-TECH is a grade-9-to-14 program where students earn a high-school diploma and an associate’s degree in either computer-systems technology or electromechanical-engineering technology. The public school’s students do not pay for textbooks, tuition, or college-associated fees, which are all covered by P-TECH.
Rashid Davis, the school’s inaugural principal, said the idea for P-TECH was hatched during a U.S. Open tennis tournament match in 2010 after a conversation between then-head of New York City schools Joel Klein and the former CEO of IBM, Sam Palmisano. Fast-forward five years and the school is in its ninth semester with 95 percent of the original set of students still enrolled. Already six of P-TECH’s students have earned an associate’s degree and were invited to work for IBM, though three students chose to continue their educations at four-year universities.
Eight in 10 of P-TECH’s student population is considered low-income, a figure Davis cites to express that the school is challenging misconceptions about the abilities of poor, black, or Hispanic adults. “Nationally … young men of color have the highest dropout rates and low [college completion] and high-school rates, and so we’re happy that at the end of the 8th semester, 82 percent [of our students] were college-ready in English, and 84 percent were college-ready in math,” said Davis, referring to figures that are above the city average.