Perhaps the most overrated school in reformer folklore is the Pathways in Technology Early College High School, or P-TECH, in Brooklyn, New York.
Since opening five years ago, they have been featured in national news reports, visited by President Obama, and touted by President Obama in a State of The Union address.
Though a partnership with IBM, students at P-TECH, so the theory goes, go to school there for 6 years and earn a high school diploma and an associates degree in some kind of technology field. Qualified students get job offers at IBM.
I’ve tracked this school for several years and out of all the miracle schools I’ve ‘debunked’ over the years, this was the simplest one to do. Despite all their claims, I was able to easily find on the New York City public data site that P-TECH’s Regents scores are some of the lowest in the city. I’ve written about this school several times over the years.
So imagine my surprise when I see Joel Klein retweeting yet another miracle claim, this one by the principal of P-TECH, Rashid Davis.
Included in Davis’ tweet is this chart showing that students at P-TECH have some of the highest ‘Percentage Attaining Math College Readiness Standard’ in the city.
In New York state, from my understanding, ‘college ready in math’ means that a student has gotten an 80 on one of the math regents. There are three math regents, Algebra 1 taken mainly by 9th graders, Geometry, taken by 10th graders, and Algebra II, by 11th graders. There is a very generous curve on these tests where getting an 80 on Algebra 1 can be done by getting 59% of the possible points. But even as inflated this statistic is, it still seems noteworthy that P-TECH seems to have students who are more ready for college than nearly all of the 500 high schools.
But this didn’t seem possible to me based on their regents scores. So I took another look.
Using the public data site located here I found the database from which this statistic came. In that same database I found that there were seven other statistics that measured college readiness in one way or another.
There was college readiness based on the Algebra 1 regents. On that they had 11.6%.
College readiness based on the Geometry regents, 1.6%.
Based on the Algebra 2 regents, 0%.
Based on the English regents, 41.6%.
Based on the Global History regents, 50%.
Their Math SAT average, 446
Percent getting a 65 or more on either Algebra 2, Physics, or Chemistry, 15.3%
I challenged Davis to a little Twitter debate and he said that there was no inconsistency between the regents college ready numbers and the ‘math’ college ready ones. They were based on different students, he said. One was the graduating cohort and one was the younger students taking these tests. I said that it did not add up. If the demographics of the school is about the same for different classes and the teachers are the same, these numbers should correlate somewhat.
And, in general, they do. I made one of my famous scatter plots, putting the ‘Math College Ready’ on the horizontal and the ‘Geometry College Ready’ on the vertical. There was a general correlation with one notable outlier, a lonely red dot at the bottom right of the graph with its 82.7% college ready math yet 1.6% college ready Geometry.
So for sure something is off about their 82.7% number. The most plausible explanation is that even though they can’t get hardly anyone to pass the 10th grade and 11th grade math regents, perhaps they have their students keep taking the Algebra 1 regents over and over every year until they achieve an 80 on it (which, again, is really just a 59% before the curve, but that’s another story). I can’t be sure.
When he saw that we weren’t making much progress on the Twitter debate, Davis wisely took a break from it. Joel Klein, Mr. Data Driven until the data doesn’t support his agenda, tweeted one last barb, which he later deleted about how Davis will keep fighting for the kids while I will keep trying to destroy all that is good. I tweeted back that something that is truly good will withstand the scrutiny of critics, and that was it for this round.
P-TECH is expanding across the state and the world, actually. There are 16 more opening in New York, I understand, and 40 across the country. Australia is looking at them and I just saw something about two P-TECHs opening in Morocco …
Other posts I’ve written about P-TECH: