The Hamilton-Fulton-Montgomery Pathways in Technology Early College High School (HFM PTECH) is one of five schools nationwide chosen by the American Association of School Administrators (AASA) and The Successful Practices Network (SPN) to be showcased at AASA’s 2018 conference.
This news comes after the two national organizations this fall named the regional PTECH as one of 25 schools deemed to be “national models of innovative successful practices.” In November, SPN and AASA visited PTECH to gather data for a case study documenting PTECH’s to share with school and district leaders across the country. The case study highlights PTECH’s innovative approach to education and the impact it has had on student learning and achievement.
In 2014, a consortium of HFM BOCES, its component school districts, Fulton-Montgomery Community College, the Fulton-Montgomery Regional Chamber of Commerce, and business partners collaborated to launch PTECH. In 2016, the consortium partnered with SUNY Cobleskill to launch the Agriculture PTECH.
PTECH’s model is centered on project based learning and includes college-level, credit-bearing coursework in the curriculum and allows students to choose their own “pathways” to high-skills jobs in different career clusters. Through the program, selected students from HFM BOCES 15 component districts can earn associate’s degrees at no cost to their families and will be considered for jobs with partnering companies when they graduate.
Now in its fourth year, PTECH is poised to graduate its first class of students in June of 2018, with many of them receiving their associate’s degree and high school diplomas at the same time.
Successful Practices Network CEO Tim Ott said one of PTECH’s most noteworthy innovations is the way the school prepares students to meet high school graduation requirements and postsecondary education through authentic learning experiences.
“Instruction focuses on a project based learning model in which students are engaged in relevant community problems identified by business partners,” he said, noting that group projects typically involve several faculty and are multidisciplinary. “Teachers are in an environment where they plan and learn in teams and model group work for their students.”
Ott also pointed to PTECH’s extensive opportunities for work internships and student-mentor interactions as reasons for its success.
“In four short years, the conversation among educators, parents and the business community in the region has shifted from ‘will this new high school experiment work?’ to ‘this is a magnificent school,’ ” Ott said.
PTECH Principal Mike Dardaris, who has been at the helm since the school’s inception in 2014, said the authentic learning Ott observed during his visit to the school is essential to students being prepared for the workplace when they complete the program.
“We want our students to take ownership of their education, and we have found that a student-driven culture that focuses on projects that ask them to offer solutions to real-world problems gives them that opportunity,” Dardaris said. “I am so grateful for the commitment of our hardworking staff members. They deserve all the credit, not only for their constant collaboration to create meaningful projects that encompass multiple subjects, but also for their relentless pursuit of success for each and every student.”
PTECH student Taina Fuentes, a freshman from Amsterdam, said the student-driven culture and the project-based approach make PTECH a place where she can flourish. “In this school, we lift each other up. It’s a different kind of atmosphere,” she said. “Teachers’ roles are different, too. They teach us some things, but then they let us figure it out ourselves and are there to help us.”
“We see it in the data and in the stories we hear from students who are experiencing success in school for the first time. This model is working,” HFM BOCES District Superintendent Dr. Patrick Michel said. “I’m excited to share our model with other school districts both at the AASA conference and through the case study that will be published widely.”
The process of identifying innovative practices in schools that have led to increased student achievement is part of a joint initiative of the Successful Practices Network and AASA. Together, they seek out schools that are preparing students not just for high school graduation, but for post-secondary education, the workplace, and for their roles as citizens. The other four schools chosen to participate in the AASA conference are Greene County Schools in North Carolina, Mineola Unified School District in New York, Minnetonka Public Schools in Minnesota, and Owensburg City Schools in Kentucky.