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By Kathryn Wing
March 13, 2014
Caption : In New York and Chicago, new six-year high schools (P-TECH schools) are being implemented in an attempt to address a disconnect between employers' demand and the supply of students graduating with STEM degrees.     

A new experiment is going on in higher education but it is happening in high schools. The six-year high school is a recent attempt by some states to fill the gap between lacking STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) graduates and the high demand of available jobs in these fields.

In New York, Pathways in Technology school (P-TECH) is changing the way post-secondary education is viewed. President Barack Obama, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, many blue chip CEOs, and top educators believe this structure could be a turning point in ensuring a skilled workforce.

Focusing on a rigorous STEM curriculum, these students graduate in six years with the additional two years giving them an associate’s diploma at graduation. Every student also graduates with a guaranteed $40,000-plus job opportunity at IBM, as the company has partnered with the school as a key developer of the curriculum.

But these schools are not only preparing students on the East Coast, but also the Midwest.

On Chicago’s South Side, a new school—Sarah E. Goode High School—was recently launched implementing P-TECH’s approach and also developed with IBM ensuring the same benefits to these students.

“What’s very clear to me is that high school education as it is envisioned today isn’t sufficient for the modern workplace, or the modern economy,” Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel told TIME.

Emanuel decided to launch six P-TECH schools of his own after reading about former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s success working with IBM in Brooklyn’s Crown Heights neighborhood.

Projections by the Center on Education and Workforce at Georgetown University predict the U.S. economy will create 47 million jobs by 2018 but nearly two-thirds will require post-secondary education.

It projects only 36 percent of American jobs will be filled by people with a four-year high school degree, but graduating with an associates’ degree will allow students to see an increase of 73 percent in their income.  

These six-year high schools could even help lower student debt, since two years of education will be completed while in high school without the need for students to take out loans.

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