Obama hails Brooklyn, and the P-TECH model

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Obama at P-Tech. ()
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Hailing the school as a national model, President Barack Obama visited Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH) in Brooklyn on Friday.

"P-TECH is proof of what can be accomplished," Obama said during a speech in the school's auditorium on Friday, standing before a group of students. "We need to educate every single person here, but also all the young people all across Brooklyn, all across New York City, all across New York State, all across this country, so you are ready for this global economy. Schools like P-TECH will help us do that." 

Obama gave shout-outs to Governor Andrew Cuomo, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, the Democratic public advocate and likely next mayor, whom Obama called "my friend."

De Blasio and Obama met at Junior's on Flatbush Avenue after Obama's speech, according to White House pool reports.

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P-TECH, which opened in 2011 in Crown Heights, is a collaboration between I.B.M., CUNY and the D.O.E., and teaches an intensive computer-science curriculum in addition to a traditional high school plan. Students complete two years of college-level work before receiving an associates degree in computer science or engineering.

P-TECH, as an institution, is something of  a Bloombergian paradigm: a small, vocational high school that feeds the local tech industry, born from a public-private partnership.

Speaking at the event about an hour before Obama took the stage, Bloomberg said, "No other city in this country has done more to connect high school students to college and careers."

P-TECH tells the story of school reform during the Bloomberg era in another sense, too. In order to make space for P-TECH, Paul Robeson High School, the district high school that occupied the Crown Heights school building, was phased out.

Bloomberg addressed the issue of charter-school co-location, and its impact on schools like Robeson, head-on during his speech.

“P-TECH would not be possible without the policy of closing failing schools and opening new ones,” he said. “President Obama stood by us as we worked to shut down failing schools. This was once a large high school that was failing its students for far too long.”

During his speech, Obama briefly referred to New York state's early adoption of the Common Core, congratulating Cuomo on what Obama called his "courage to raise your standards for teaching and learning, making sure your students graduate from high school ready for college and a career its not easy but its the right thing to do."

"We should stay at it," he said.

"What started small is now growing," Obama said, referring to Cuomo's recent announcement that schools modeled on P-TECH would open in sixteen districts throughout the state.

Obama’s brief visit to Brooklyn shut down large swaths of Prospect Park for much of the day after Marine One landed in the middle of the park. He spent the beginning of his speech riffing about the borough.

"I landed Marine One in Prospect Park," he said, "I used to live across the street from Prospect Park! Brooklyn in general is blowing up right now. When I was living here, Brooklyn was cool, but not that cool."

"Barclays Center hadn't been built yet," Obama said, before mentioning that Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett were now playing for the Nets. "That's a lesson to young people that old people can still play, still got some gas in the tank."