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What's behind the P-TECH hype? We answer as Obama stops by

P-TECH produced buttons after President Obama name-checked the school in his State of the Union address in January. In a system with more than 1,800 schools, one is getting an extra-large dose of attention today. President Barack Obama is visiting P-TECH, or Pathways in Technology Early College High School (and partially shutting down Prospect Park in the process). The small school in Crown Heights, which opened in 2011 in the building being vacated by Paul Robeson High School, doesn’t even have a graduating class to boast about. But it’s been getting high praise from high places since even before it opened because of its approach to preparing students for a 21st-century job market. P-Tech is new and still relatively untested — it’s only a few months into its third year — but there are some early signs of success under its dynamic principal, Rashid Davis. Still, whether it will live up to its lofty promises remains to be seen. Here’s our breakdown of what’s been happening in the Crown Heights school and why it’s received so much buzz. How much buzz has there been? The hype has come early and often. P-TECH was barely open a month back in 2011 when policy makers had already taken an interest and replicating it around the country. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel struck a deal to open up to five schools like it; in New York, Mayor Bloomberg laid out plans to replicate it twice in his 2012 State of the City speech; three more schools could open next year. Last year, a foundation solicited bids for P-TECH duplicates in Idaho. Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who will join Obama for the visit today, has jumped on the bandwagon, too. In August, he announced 16 winners to split up $4 million to start their own P-TECH versions around the state. In between, P-TECH received visits from a host of high-profile leaders in education, including one day last year when Chancellor Dennis Walcott, State Education Commissioner John King and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan all stopped by. A couple of months later, Obama name-dropped the school in his 2013 State of the Union speech. Obama said it was a new way for American schools to prepare students for life beyond high school. Partnerships with higher education and high-tech industries, he said in his 2013 State of the Union speech, would be key to bridging that gap in the future. "At schools like P-Tech in Brooklyn," Obama said, "a collaboration between New York Public Schools, the City University of New York, and IBM, students will graduate with a high school diploma and an associate degree in computers or engineering.” Obama returns today, where he'll be joined by Bloomberg, Cuomo, Walcott, Democratic mayoral nominee Bill de Blasio, as well as union leaders Michael Mulgrew and Randi Weingarten. What’s so special about the P-TECH model?
New York

Candidates to skip first day of school for Democratic convention

Last year, Robert Jackson (l.) and Speaker Christine Quinn, candidates for higher office im 2013, joined UFT President Michael Mulgrew on the first day of school. Visiting schools to shake hands with students and pose with parents on the first day of school is a time-honored stop on elected officials' public schedules. But few of them will be pounding the pavement on Thursday. That’s because their presence is required at a different kind of political event: the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C. All of the leading contenders in next year’s mayoral race have made first-day-of-school stops in the recent past. Last year, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn appeared in Inwood with United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew to celebrate their budget victory that prevented thousands of teacher layoffs. Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer handed out "Back 2 Basics Guides" at several schools, and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio was in Fort Greene calling on parents to get more involved in their children’s education. As comptroller in 2009, Bill Thompson used the first day of school to criticize the city for increasing class sizes. This year, all four are part of the roughly 450-member New York State delegation that will help nominate President Barack Obama for a second term Thursday evening. On Tuesday, the delegates approved the party platform, presented by Newark mayor Cory Booker, which included a hefty slate of education policy positions.
New York

The education governor's race: A Paladino and Cuomo primer

You may have noticed that we have a governor's race going on in New York. But amid the love children, viral cell-phone videos, and upsetting e-mail forwards, policy issues are getting even more overshadowed than usual — including where the two candidates stand on education. To remedy this, I've compiled a brief primer outlining the education stances of the Democrat, Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, and the Republican, Tea Party-ite Buffalo businessman Carl Paladino. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Cuomo, the state's attorney general, sides with Obama and Bloomberg on education. (Photo via ##http://www.flickr.com/photos/saeba/4015439957/sizes/m/in/photostream/##Flickr## user ##http://www.flickr.com/photos/saeba/##saebaryo##) Andrew Cuomo HIS CAMP: Cuomo is framing himself as the great hope that Democrats for Education Reform activists once dreamed David Paterson would be — a "Barack Obama Democrat" on education, as one source put it to me. (Or, you might say, an "ideolocrat.") Cuomo kept himself out of the Race to the Top legislative battle (at least publicly). But his published platform mirrors DFER's insistence on raising the cap on charter schools, and it quotes charter supporters' warning that a union-backed push for more public consultation before opening a charter school would have amounted to a "poison pill." WHAT HE MIGHT DO: Cuomo's decision to affiliate with DFER, Mayor Bloomberg, and the entrepreneurial camp on schools gives him a potentially long education wish list. That's because almost all of the changes favored by these reformers are legislative; teacher tenure, "last in, first out" firing patterns, teacher pensions, and charter school growth are all matters of state law. While other state Democrats (namely Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver) have allied themselves with the teachers union, Cuomo could act as a counter-force pushing for more changes to the state's education law. It's worth noting that nearly all of the education agenda Bloomberg laid out this week on NBC would require changes to state law.
New York

A city principal who favors change warily prepares for more

Graduating seniors celebrated today inside the Cobble Hill School of American Studies Today was a roller coaster for Kenneth Cuthbert, principal of the Cobble Hill School of American Studies in Brooklyn. At 1 p.m., he stood inside a new basement auditorium he excavated from a former garbage dump and watched more than 100 of his students graduate to shattering cheers. A few hours later, he learned that he might lose his job. Cobble Hill has been named one of the 34 city schools the state will attempt "turn around" as part of an Obama administration program. The news Cuthbert received this afternoon, in an e-mail message from Chancellor Joel Klein, is that Cobble Hill will undergo the so-called "transformation" model — the less severe model that preserves a school's teaching staff, but still endangers its principal. State rules say that all schools on the federal list should lose their principals, but city officials are considering appealing for some principals to stay, and the principals union is pressuring them to save these jobs. So far, Cuthbert doesn't know where he falls. "They need to do what’s in the best interest of the children," he told me this afternoon, after receiving the news. "I will be fine. God sends us here with gifts, talents, and abilities. What are you going to do? You play the hand you’re dealt. We’ve played it for the last several years." His mixed feelings reflect the fact that, for the five years that he's been principal, Cuthbert has seen himself as on a war path to improve the school — and he feels like he's made important steps. Last year's four-year graduation rate was 65 percent, up from 42 percent two years before. Since he came, the school has launched several new programs, including a law program that he said is behind increasing enrollment. (Achievement statistics on the school can be found here and here.)