The need for college-level programs for high school students, including those in the HFM BOCES region, was the focus of a recent roundtable discussion at the New York State School Boards Association.
On Friday, Dec. 8, New York State Education Department Commissioner MaryEllen Elia, Senior Deputy Commissioner Jhone Ebert and HFM BOCES District Superintendent Dr. Patrick Michel led school board members from across the state in a discussion regarding the importance of dual credit programs, which allow high school students the opportunity to earn college credit – and in some cases an associate degree – while still in high school.
“We can no longer separate high school from college,” Dr. Michel told roundtable participants, who included board of education members from the Capital Region and as far away as Long Island, Buffalo and the North Country. HFM BOCES Board of Education President Joanne Freeman represented the local BOCES board.
Dr. Michel estimates that in today’s “brain-based” economy, the vast majority of high school students will require the completion of some college-level coursework to be successful in the workforce.
“Eighty percent of our students will need at least some college to succeed, and we’re nowhere close to providing that now,” Dr. Michel said, noting that a four-year degree isn’t the only postsecondary pathway. Other opportunities including a two-year degree, various types of certification and licensure and other advanced coursework are available.
Commissioner Elia concurred that there is a need for college-level coursework, and its availability in local high schools will be a school accountability measure included in the state’s new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) plan. The commissioner said the research is clear that college-level coursework helps students succeed and helps shapes a student’s perception of what they can accomplish.
“They see themselves as better students. They see that they can be successful in higher-level coursework, and they see themselves beyond high school being potential students in some other environment,” the commissioner said.
Dr. Michel pointed to the successful PTECH model – which aims to look and function more like a hybrid between college and the workplace – as one mechanism that can be used to expand college and career opportunities for high school students.
In 2014, a consortium of HFM BOCES, its component school districts, Fulton-Montgomery Community College and the Fulton-Montgomery Regional Chamber of Commerce partnered to launch the first PTECH in the HFM region. In 2016, HFM BOCES and the chamber partnered with SUNY Cobleskill to launch Agriculture PTECH. PTECH students begin as ninth-graders and simultaneously earn Regents high school diplomas and an associate degree in four to six years.
Now, HFM BOCES is looking to bring the PTECH model to scale, and is preparing to partner with component school districts to launch three additional PTECHs for fall 2018.
The need for continued funding for the state’s 32 PTECH schools was also discussed. At its December meeting, the state Board of Regents approved 2018 legislative priorities that included support of legislation to preserve and continue PTECH programs.
The commissioner said she was confident state funding for the PTECH program would continue.
“PTECH is working,” Dr. Michel said. “We look forward to continued student success as we scale the PTECH model both locally and across the state.”