VSA-branded educational model has fans in high places

President Obama mentioned Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH) as a beacon of education innovation in this year’s State of the Union address on Feb. 12. It was the latest and highest-profile reference to P-TECH, the product of a unique collaboration among the New York City Department of EducationThe City University of New York and IBM. Following enthusiastic articles in The New York TimesU.S.News & World ReportTimeFast Company and many other publications, the school’s inclusion in the president’s speech meant that this “grades 9-14” model is increasingly seen as a new standard for providing academically rigorous and economically relevant education that connects graduates directly to employment.

What’s special about P-TECH? College-level courses are built into the curriculum beginning in freshman year. Liaisons from the New York City College of Technology (City Tech) and IBM come to the school several times a week to work with students. The school shares data about student progress with parents and educators. All of which leads to the ultimate outcome: When students graduate, they’ll do so with a high school diploma and an associate applied science degree—and the skills to move either directly into the IT industry or into a four-year college program.

P-TECH’s principal, Rashid Ferrod Davis, posted a few stunning statistics in his October 2012 report, “P-TECH: Where We Are Now.” Among them: the school’s attendance rate was 94.2 percent the first year (while the city average was 86.6 percent*); the school saw an 8:1 ratio of adults to students; 97 percent of ninth-grade students were promoted to 10th grade; and half of sophomores are enrolled in college courses this year.

VSA Partners worked with IBM to create P-TECH’s brand ahead of its opening in September 2011. It was a perfect fit—the school’s brand was another manifestation of uniting IBM’s commitment to innovation with VSA’s commitment to brand value creation. VSA’s strong logo, “High School > College > Career” tagline and design work crystallized the P-TECH experience while welcoming potential students without being intimidating.

P-TECH already is moving toward its next milestones—populating all grades by the 2014-2015 school year and graduating its first class in 2017. And other schools following P-TECH’s public-private partnership model are forming or opening soon. Keep an eye on P-TECH on Twitter and Facebook or dive deep into the “STEM Pathways to College and Careers Schools: A Development Guide” playbook to learn what it takes to build a successful grades 9-14 school.

* Taken from Progress Report Results 2011-12, High Schools, at the New York City Department of Education Progress Report page.