Education Secretary Learns About NYC Schools

By Ryan Sit

 The US Secretary of Education paid a visit to Pathways in Technology Early College High School in Brooklyn Tuesday, where he lauded the school’s year-old contemporary model.

“I want to say how impressed I am with this P-Tech model,” said Secretary Arne Duncan, using the school’s moniker.

P-Tech was launched last September as a model incorporating partnerships with City University of New York, New York City of Technology, and the IBM Corporation. Students have the opportunity to graduate with an associate degree in computer systems technology, applied science or electromechanical engineering technology.  The sentiment of career orientation and emersion is reflected in the hallways, with hard drives and stripped down circuit boards put up in viewing cases along the wall.

“Here you have a high school.  You have a college.  IBM in the corporate sector,” said Duncan.  “You have all these partnerships,” he added, “everybody moving outside they’re comfort zones to make this amazing learning opportunity.”

“High school graduation is not enough anymore,” said New York City Department of Education Chancellor Dennis M. Walcott.  “We need our students graduating college and career ready.”

Duncan said that he was “100 percent convinced” P-Tech students would be prepared for their futures after graduation.

“I like that it’s very challenging,” said sophomore Clifton McDonald about the program.  McDonald, 15, hopes to work in robotics to advance prosthetics after he graduates.  The ambition came after watching a war movie, McDonald explained, where he noted the sense of hopelessness in dismembered soldiers.  “I really wanted to change that.”

One room over from McDonald sat a class of freshman trying to develop a basic computer program.  Among them was Kent Wilson, 14, who found out about P-Tech from a high school fair.  He’s deciding between a career in advertising or as a game designer.  “I’m a huge Grand Theft Auto fan,” he said.

The future of education is unavoidably linked with politics and has increasingly been a source of contention in the presidential debates.  “Ultimately we need to educate our way to a better economy,” said Duncan, adding that this is a stance President Obama agrees with.

Duncan’s visit to Brooklyn came just after he announced the Broad Prize winner for Urban Education at the MoMa in Manhattan, where Florida’s Miami-Dade County public schools were crowned.  The Florida school district was a five-time finalist for the award and will receive $550,000 in college scholarships for its high school seniors.


Duncan finished the local tour with a return to midtown to participate in Hunter College’s “From Classroom to Career” forum.


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