P-Tech is one of the most celebrated schools in recent years. President Obama hailed it in one of his 2013 State of the Union speech. He and Arne Duncan visited the school and repeatedly praised it as “proof of what can be accomplished” if we have the courage and will to do it. P-Tech was created as a partnership between the New York City Department of Education, IBM, and the City University of New York. I don’t take pleasure in reporting that their praise was premature. I would like to see P-Tech succeed. But it is very annoying when the President and the Secretary of Education go out on a limb to hail success before a school has ever graduated a single student.


Gary Rubinstein reports that P-Tech has been a huge disappointment despite (or perhaps because) of the overpraise it received.


In an earlier post, he says, he noted that only 2% of the students at P-Tech passed the Geometry and Algebra II Regents’ exams. Defenders explained that the pass rate was so low because students in sophomore and junior years were taking the tests for practice.


Now, he writes:


I recently followed up on my P-Tech research and found that New York State has revamped their data page extensively. Now all the data including the number of test takers is all available with a very user friendly interface. The P-Tech state data page can be found here.


I’m focusing on Algebra II since P-Tech is an engineering school where students attend for six years to earn a high school degree and an associates degree and a job offer from IBM. Since Algebra II is taken by advanced 10th graders I figure that P-Tech should be able to get a good percent of their students to eventually pass this test.


The first thing I checked was their 2014 scores last year again. They had 128 students take that test, which went against their claim that they made all their freshmen and sophomores take the test. If that were the case, it should have been about 300 test takers. In 2014 only two students passed that test with a score over 65 and four other students got between a 55 and a 65. Pretty brutal — but not as bad as how they did a year later.


In the most recent Regents administered last June, P-Tech decided to only allow the students who were most likely to pass the test, knowing that making too many unprepared students take the test would affect their passing percent. So last year only 41 students took the Algebra II Regents. Of those 41 students exactly one student passed and one other scored between 55 and 65. That’s it. The 39 other students all failed with scores under a 55.


Rubinstein notes that P-Tech, having received so much hype and praise, is now spreading across the country. Some 40 more P-Techs are in the pipeline in other states and in New York City.


Shouldn’t school officials wait for experiments to prove themselves before they replicate them?