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Obama to Visit Cutting-Edge NYC School

Obama to Visit Cutting-Edge NYC School
President Obama visits P-Tech High School in Brooklyn

President Barack Obama will visit an experimental New York City vocational school to praise it as a model of a public-private partnership.

Obama will deliver a speech and meet with students Friday at Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-Tech), which was born out of cooperation between the city's Department of Education, the City University of New York and IBM.

Students attend the schools for six years, from grades 9-14, meaning they do two years of college work in addition to the four years of high school, which have a heavy emphasis on computer science. Obama mentioned the school during his State of the Union speech earlier this year.

"Let's also make sure that a high school diploma puts our kids on a path to a good job," Obama told both houses of Congress on Feb. 12. "Right now, countries like Germany focus on graduating their high school students with the equivalent of a technical degree from one of our community colleges, so that they're ready for a job.  At schools like P-TECH in Brooklyn ... students will graduate with a high school diploma and an associate degree in computers or engineering."

Obama will use the speech to insist that Congress not simply rely on cutting programs during upcoming budget negotiations, according to the White House. He will hold up P-Tech has a smart example of a government investment that can translate directly into jobs.

The school's graduates have the inside track at employment opportunities at IBM.

"We're honored that President Obama has hailed P-Tech as a national model," said Mayor Michael Bloomberg in a statement.

There are 335 students at the school, which opened in a rough stretch of Crown Heights in September 2011. Most of the students hail from Brooklyn, though others live elsewhere in the five boroughs. They all are assigned a corporate mentor, according to Stan Litow at IBM, one of the architects of the idea.

"There is no admissions requirement and the overwhelming majority of students at the school are children of color," said Litow. "Workplace skills valued by employers are buried throughout the curriculum."

"Their achievements are already significant: a large number of students are already taking and passing college courses in the middle of 10th grade," he said.

The school's success has inspired copycats. A similar school opened up in Chicago last year, and another is expected to open in the Windy City soon. Meanwhile, by next fall, six more P-Tech-like schools will open in New York City and another 15 are planned elsewhere in the state.

"It's going to mean a lot to the school to have Obama visit, it's going to be really energizing," said Litow. "It's a total validation for the model."

After his event at the school, Obama is scheduled to attend a fundraiser for Democratic congressional candidates.

Prospect Park, Brooklyn's largest park, totaling 585 acres, will be closed for six hours Friday because it is being used as the landing zone for Obama's Marine 1 helicopters.