It’s national school choice week, and this year the annual celebration of school choice coincides with the release of the Independence Institute’s latest charter school profile. Power Technical (PTEC), the subject of the profile, is a career and technical education-focused public charter school in the James Irwin Charter Schools network. Authorized by Falcon District 49, the school serves students from across the Colorado Springs area who choose to pursue an education built around preparation for careers in skilled trades. In addition to instruction in core academic subjects, PTEC students take 90 minutes of shop per day in one of a number of available career concentrations.
PTEC is a middle/high school, but because it makes use of a new State of Colorado initiative known as Pathways in Technology (P-TECH), the school serves students in grades 6-14, as some pupils continue their education for an additional two years at Pikes Peak Community College. Currently, there are only seven P-TECH schools across Colorado and Power Technical is rather unique in that its primary focus is in various skilled trades and not in STEM or information technology centered fields.
The Pathways in Technology program was established in 2015 with the signing of HB 15-1270 and works by establishing cooperation between school districts, community colleges, and local industry partners. Upon completing secondary schooling, P-TECH students transition into a community college where their education is meant to be a seamless continuation of the technical and academic training they had received in high school. Additionally, by working with industry partners, students gain relevant work experience that may include internships, shadowing, or apprenticeships. Colorado’s first cohort of 13thgraders is currently made up exclusively of Power Technical students attending PPCC. This is largely thanks to PTEC’s administration, which persuaded the state to allow the school to send students on to community college a year earlier than had been originally planned.
PTEC’s aim is to provide a level of career training rigorous enough to make it possible for its graduates to enter the workforce immediately after finishing high school. This, however, does not necessarily have to be the case as the aim of the school’s academic instruction is to allow students to pursue two- or four-year college degrees if they so choose.
The new profile intends to highlight the fact that PTEC students, some of whom were interviewed for the piece, have a clear idea of the purpose that their education will serve both in their own lives and in the world at large. Especially during National School Choice Week, it’s important to stress that there are schools out there which are committed to teaching their students practical skills. Schools like PTEC provide a viable option by effectively integrating core academic subjects with real life applications, thus making it easier for many students to see the relevance and practical importance of their schooling.