Breaking Barriers for Our Students and Our Future with Stanley Litow
August 31, 2021
Breaking Barriers for Our Students and Our Future with Stanley Litow

It’s all too common that our high school graduates go on to college unprepared for the rigor of the college classroom. Or that they go into the workforce without the tools and knowledge they need to succeed. It’s costing everyone dearly–from the cost to our industries to train new graduates to even those graduates’ future incomes.

Stanley Litow, today’s guest, has a solution. And it’s one that’s been growing since its inception as a single school in Brooklyn, NY in 2011. Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH) has since grown to 240 schools in 12 states and 28 countries and has helped to close the achievement gap among some of the most undereducated youth.

On this episode, Stanley explains the philosophy behind P-TECH, how it supports schools, students and industry, why it saves us all money, and what we as educational leaders can do to help support models like this.


About Stanley Litow

Stanley S. Litow is a Professor at both Columbia and Duke University. At Duke University, he also serves as Innovator in Residence. Stan is the author of The Challenge for Business and Society: From Risk to Reward and co-author of Breaking Barriers: How P-Tech Schools Create a Pathway from High School to College to Career.

He previously served as President of the IBM International Foundation and as Deputy Chancellor of Schools for the City of New York. Before his service at IBM and the NYC public schools, he served as President and Founder of Interface and as Executive Director of the NYC Urban Corps, operated out of the Mayor’s Office.

He has served on multiple Presidential and Gubernatorial Commissions and in addition to his service on the SUNY Board of Trustees; he also serves on the board of Roosevelt House and the Citizens Budget Commission.

Stan helped devise the innovative school to college to career program called P-TECH, as well as the IBM Corporate Service Corps, often referenced as the corporate version of the Peace Corps.

He has received multiple awards for his community service, from organizations such as the Anne Frank Commission, the Martin Luther King Commission, and the Center for an Urban Future as well as the Corning Award from the New York State Business Council.


Jump Through the Conversation

  • [2:00] Stanley’s journey of contributing to society
  • [6:15] Challenges in education today
  • [7:21] How P-TECH is working to change that
  • [12:12] How P-TECH is set up
  • [19:01] The cost of remedial courses for high school graduates
  • [20:13] The financial benefits of completing college
  • [26:16] What’s the next step
  • [28:17] How P-TECH influences high school curriculum
  • [33:49] Getting buy-in from key stakeholders
  • [37:48] How to get businesses to say yes to teenage interns
  • [50:42] Stanley’s magic wand
  • [52:28] Maureen’s takeaways


Links and Resources:

Thanks for listening! Don’t forget to subscribe on Apple Podcasts or Android. If you like what you heard, please leave a review on iTunes and share what you liked about the show.



Maureen O’Shaughnessy  0:03  

Hello fellow parents and educators. Thank you for joining me at Education Evolution, where we are disrupting the status quo in today’s learning models. We talk about present day education, what’s broken, who’s fixing it, and how. I’m Dr. Maureen O’Shaughnessy, your host and founder of Education Evolution, Microschool Coalition, and co founder of EdActive. I consult and train with schools and leaders who are fiercely Committed to changing the narrative, reimagining the education landscape, and creating learning that serves all children and prepares them to thrive. If you are new, welcome to the podcast. Please subscribe on our website to get it delivered to your inbox weekly. If you’ve been around a while, have you left a review?


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  1:07  

Hi, Stanley. So good to have you. 


Stanley Litow  1:09  

Great to be with you. 


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  1:11  

And listeners. Today I’m chatting with Stanley Litow. Stanley is a true Renaissance person. Not only is he a Duke and Columbia professor, and Dukes innovator in residence, Stanley has an equally impressive record as a VP at IBM for many years, his humanitarian innovations and focus on corporate citizenship, uniquely places him as an expert and how society needs to work together for good. Now let’s hear from Stanley how he makes this happen. 


Stanley Litow  1:45  

Well, thank you so much. 


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  1:47  

Yes, Stanley, before we unpack your most recent achievement, your wonderful book explaining p tech, could you just share how this story of contributing and transforming began for you? How did you really become this contributor to society?


Stanley Litow  2:07  

Well, I started getting involved in local government in New York City when I was still in college, and took a job working in the mayor’s office. And I had responsibility for a program that the mayor set up called the urban core. And it was the largest public service internship program in the nation. 1000s of students a year coming from hundreds of colleges under the federal college work study program, working through city government agencies, and it’s spread across about 100 cities around the United States. 


Stanley Litow  2:41  

So my earliest experience in government was about public service and community service, and worked very, very closely with the public education system and public higher education system. And then when I left government, I started a think tank called interface and founded it and lead it. And the difference between interface and most think tanks is that while it did a lot of scholarship, it also worked very closely with advocacy organizations on the implementation of the work. And when the New York City had its serious fiscal crisis, in the mid 70s, we worked on creating options so that budget cuts would be least harmful for students in the school systems. 


Stanley Litow  3:31  

And I did work at interface for over a decade, and then was asked by the chancellor of schools to become his deputy Chancellor, and worked in the school system very, very excitedly, to launch a number of new small schools and got the New York City public schools through a recession in the early 1990s. And then I was recruited to go to IBM to, as you said, run its global citizenship program and also be president of the IBM Foundation, which I did for quite some time. 


Stanley Litow  4:06  

And I had an opportunity to, to organize and lead three national education summits for the President of the United States, the nation’s governors and, and business leaders, and started a number of innovative programs including the P tech program, which I write about in my book and, and as you pointed out, when I retired from IBM, I began I would call an encore career, book writing, teaching at Duke and Columbia. I do a monthly column for barons and really want to do whatever I can to help the next generation cross sector to be able to come up with ideas and then solve problems and make sure that our civic virtue is really front and center.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  4:54  

Wow, do you sleep?


Stanley Litow  4:59  

well, yeah. I do sleep and probably dream about all of the wonderful things that are possible, given how much we need innovation in society.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  5:11  

Absolutely. You really are that unique person that’s had experience, in government, in business, in education, and bring that all together. And it’s so wonderful that you’re sharing it out as an author, and as a writer, and with your weekly blog, and as a professor, so you just keep giving, that’s amazing. 


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  5:35  

And what I really want to dive into is p tech. I know that we’re leaders from France’s president and former President Obama have endorsed p tech, and that it successfully preparing youth for careers in 28 countries. But tell us about this visionary program, because I hadn’t heard of it until recently,


Stanley Litow  5:57  

the concept and the idea started back in 2010. And, you know, we have a number of critical crises facing us, nationally and globally. Number one, we know that there’s changes in the workforce, and the kinds of jobs that are growing, and the kinds of jobs that create real career opportunities require higher levels of education, and higher levels of skill. And yet, we know that while we have done a pretty good job improving our high school graduation rates, a large number of our young people who complete high school are not college ready. 


Stanley Litow  6:38  

And we also know that we have inequities in our education system, where young people coming from some zip codes, people who are low income, children of color, people who might have educational problems early on in their elementary and middle school grades, we know that the opportunities are not provided equally for all students. So with the opportunity in the economy and economic growth, saying we want people with higher level of skill, and we know that large numbers of young people don’t have the skills to be able to compete for those jobs, it was clear we needed a more innovative solution. 


Stanley Litow  7:22  

And the concept behind p tech was to end the idea of a nine to 12 High School and actually create an integrated grade nine to 14 combined high school community college, where students would begin in grade nine, be able to take their high school classes and their college classes concurrently, and graduate with both degrees in hand, a two year community college degree and their high school diploma and be able to provide them with the supports needed to be able to succeed in college and career. 


Stanley Litow  8:03  

And that means having a mentor provided by industry, having paid internships, to reinforce not not a standard set of skills, but the things that are most important problem solving presentation skills, writing skills, and that this collaboration and partnership would involve K to 12 systems, public higher education systems, and industry, industry would sign up to be partners in these schools. And the first school opened in Brooklyn, New York, in a very low income neighborhood, across from one of the most challenging public housing projects in the city. 


Stanley Litow  8:46  

And then early on, it was clear that with no screen for admissions, basically letting any student in to this program, even students who were more than two or three years behind academically were succeeding not only in their high school classes, but their college classes. And it was clear that this was a innovation that needed to be replicated. So it spread across New York State into other states, not just in cities like New York and Chicago, but in rural areas as well, involving hundreds and hundreds of businesses to the point now where at the end of a decade, there are 266 p tech schools, as you said, across 28 different countries, and that the results for in schools in Chicago and New York and Norwalk, Connecticut, and Newburgh, New York and Baltimore and in Longmont, Colorado demonstrate that it breaks down the myth about which children can succeed because we’re seeing college completion rates that are far higher than The national average. 


Stanley Litow  10:01  

we’re seeing large numbers of young people being hired for high wage careers. We’re seeing large numbers of young people, not just completing their two year degree, but completing their four year degree and their graduate programs. Well, we just this year had our first student going to medical school, we had our first student completing the program in three and a half years, not six years, even though he began more than two years behind. in reading and math, we seeing him getting a full scholarship to Cornell and completing, we’re seeing the first student in Longmont, Colorado, completing the program again in four years with now a full scholarship to Harvard. 


Stanley Litow  10:43  

So we’re seeing the results, dispelling all of the myths about about education that only some students can succeed, absolutely not saying that a vocational program is about a limited set of options. Absolutely not. Or saying that this is something that whenever you have innovations in education, they tend to be in just one two or a couple of schools. And that replication, scale ability and sustainability are a problem. And p tech blows away that myth as well. 


Stanley Litow  11:18  

So the idea for the book, and I titled it Breaking Barriers, because there are all these barriers, and P tech breaks them down to demonstrate, we can do this, and we have done it. And now the question is, can we move from 150,000 students involved in this program globally, to a program that’s going to serve millions of young people and really change the trajectory for them for their entire lives?


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  11:49  

Stanley, this, this sounds way too good to be true. And it’s so exciting. High School takes four years, Carnegie units, hours of sitting in class. when you say a student can complete the six year program in three years. Are you talking about competency based? Are you talking about kids taking, you know, 12 hours of school a day? How? How is it set up that it’s not so tied to seat time?


Stanley Litow  12:18  

Well, first of all, the program is dual enrollment. So students enroll in high school classes and college classes concurrently. There’s a scope and sequence of courses created in each school towards a particular degree. If that degree is computer science, electromechanical engineering, cybersecurity, finance, whatever the A s two year college degree is, it’s a scope and sequence of classes and courses so that they are integrated and tied together. And the ability to take college classes is based upon whatever the state or local district has, as their criteria for getting a student to be able to take college classes, it could be the ACCUPLACER test, or it could be any other tests, so that a student could actually begin integrating their college classes in high school classes together in a dual enrollment model as early as the summer between grade nine and 10. And then the students can compete and complete courses at their own pace. 


Stanley Litow  13:22  

So while it’s six years, four years of high school and two years of community college, we’re seeing large numbers of students moving quickly through that timeframe. For example, in Texas, the majority of students complete their program within four years, not six years. And in a city like Dallas, there are 18 p tech schools, one p tech school embedded in virtually every comprehensive high school in the city with total enrollment of 9000 students and the students. Again, with no admission screen, this is not a cherry picked, kind of program, selecting only the students who are able to pass an exam or have the highest grades. 


Stanley Litow  14:13  

And we’re seeing the students moving, as you said more quickly through that program, and completing their college courses, high school classes concurrently. And it’s very common at the end of four years to have students graduating the high school and graduating with their two year community college degree, sometimes in the same week, and then have an opportunity because the employers who are partners offering every student structured workplace visits, paid internships, mentorships, and all of those things that when a student completes, the commitment from an employer like IBM or Thomson Reuters is that students are first in line for any available job within the company. 


Stanley Litow  15:02  

So we see students coming in at starting salaries of $55,000 a year or thereabouts. We see the many of them getting promoted, we see many of them completing their four year degree, some while they’re working some full time and then coming back into the workplace. So we’re seeing a an opportunity for students to get the college degree and the workplace skills that they need, and move into a career. for them. This is not about pushing students into one kind of job. This is about putting them in the driver’s seat with the right kind of degree and they can take the next step in whatever way they wish. I’m going to be doing a session about about my book with organized by Duke University. 


Stanley Litow  15:55  

And in September and, and one of the alumni students of the program, shoe Don brown will be with me. And she completed her two year degree, she completed her bachelor’s degree, she completed her master’s degree. And while working now for IBM, she’s completing her doctorate. So that’s not what you thought about career and technical education or old style Volk, this is really putting the student in the driver’s seat.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  16:29  

I love putting the student in the driver’s seat because we don’t want them getting out there and paying 1000s and being in debt, and they have a career they didn’t even really want because they didn’t understand. 


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  16:41  

We, in Washington state have a dual enrollment 11th and 12th. And my daughter actually did that. So her junior and senior year or basically college classes, and she pretty much did end up with an A at the end. But she was just thrown into the community college system. And it was sink or swim, figuring things out. You know, she could talk to an advisor, but it wasn’t the set scope and sequence. And there was no guarantee of anything the high school just made sure she whatever college classes she took, would get her her high school diploma, but no help coordinating anything else. 


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  17:14  

Industry wasn’t involved and use it something about summer, if she had wanted to do summer, she would have had to pay out of pocket for summer. If she had taken too many hours between high school and college it could couldn’t add up to more than 1.0 she would have to pay out of pocket. How does it work in p tech?


Stanley Litow  17:31  

Well, the way that it works is that the locality guarantees that all of the college courses are tuition free. So whether it’s a p tech programs across New York State, and there are 30 community colleges within the state university system, virtually all of them are involved in a p tech school across New York State from New York City and Long Island, all the way up to the schools near the Canadian border in New York State, or whether it’s in Connecticut, Rhode Island, Maryland, Louisiana. So the agreement when the program begins, is that all of the college courses are tuition free, whether the college courses are happening in the fall, spring or summer. So there is no college debt. There is no asking students to pay college tuition, they get their community college degree and their high school diploma for free.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  18:31  

So k 12 funding means everybody gets through high school free. So any kid in Washington state can take 11th and 12th grade and community college if they pass the test for free. But if they couldn’t finish their eighth they needed your 13 or 14, it’d be out of pocket. Are you saying once a kid is in p tech, even if it takes them six years that those two years after high school are also free?


Stanley Litow  18:55  

Yes. Correct. That’s the agreement going in. And and you know, when when I think at this point about 12 states in the US have p tech schools and have made that agreement that the tuition courses are free. And then some people will say, well, wow, that’s a financial commitment. But let’s look at the financial commitment versus the cost avoidance. What we’ve seen in the P tech programs is that not one student has taken a remedial class. What we know in the United States is that a very large number of young people who complete high school and go on to college, especially low income students, especially young people of color, wind up taking non credit bearing remedial courses, which last year in the United States cost us all students, systems etc. 12 billion dollars. 


Stanley Litow  20:01  

So, by coming up with this program, we eliminate that $12 billion cost. So that’s a cost avoidance. And the second interesting thing is, when somebody completes college, over their lifetime, their earnings are 84% higher than somebody who goes in to a career or tries to, with only a high school diploma, that 84% increase means enhanced tax revenue, that 84% increase means dollars to invest in a whole range of things that government would like to do for everyone. And it also means that those young people are fueling growth in the economy. 


Stanley Litow  20:51  

So when somebody says, will, that free college, wow, that has a cost, I would say it’s more than made up with the cost savings. And it makes us more competitive globally, from an economic standpoint, we have heard so much about the skills crisis, about companies that can’t hire about companies and it and finance and healthcare and a whole range of areas that can’t find now they can’t find, but they will find, and they will find them, perhaps in another country, and perhaps they’ll move someplace else. And then the United States will lose jobs. 


Stanley Litow  21:34  

So P tech is at the nexus between what’s good for business, what’s good for government, what’s good for the economy, and what’s good for young people.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  21:47  

It’s complete, win win win for everybody. But I love what you’re saying. Why don’t we have this in all 50 states? What you’re saying some super obvious, we already have dual enrollment, the basic concept with all of the costs of kids not being prepared and having to pay for math 90 pocket, says this Mom, you know, to get her daughter up in that level. So what’s it going to take for us to make this a norm?


Stanley Litow  22:16  

Well, I think it’s going to take leadership. You know, I think you mentioned earlier on having President Obama having the President of the United States when Barack Obama was president, including p tech in his State of the Union address. And then the getting so excited about p tech that he visited the school in Brooklyn and got up and said this is an opportunity that should be offered to every student. that leadership from the President of the United States or the leadership, when the Prime Minister of Australia visited the United States to meet with the President and decided to stop by P tech school and see it and and then brought it to Australia and spread it across the country. or as you said, President Macron in France, saying that this is something that should be offered to every student in France. that leadership at the high level is significant and important. 


Stanley Litow  23:14  

It’s also important that governors step up and lead the new governor of New York Kathy hogle, the first female Governor of New York State, I was with her when we visited the P tech school in Newberg and she became a huge champion for p Tech students sitting down with a 13 year old girl in her ninth grade and asked her tell me one thing that you’ve learned in this P tech program that you think you would not have had an opportunity to learn in another school. And the girl looked at her and, I wrote about this in the book, said I learned to do an elevator pitch. 


Stanley Litow  23:54  

And the lieutenant governor at the time said, What’s an elevator pitch? And the girl said, Oh, well, when you have a very complex problem, and you only have to explain it in five minutes, or 10 minutes, you got to really do a little research and you’ve got to figure out not just what makes sense, but how to persuade somebody. To your point of view. This was a 13 year old explaining to the then lieutenant governor and now Governor of New York State, what she’d learned how she was doing it, and how she was incorporating it into her thinking and her work and her problem solving. 


Stanley Litow  24:32  

So that political leadership, Governor’s School superintendents, State Education Department leaders, presidents of the United States, very significant, very important, but we can’t end there. It needs business leadership because hundreds and hundreds of companies are partnering in one of the P tech schools last semester in Dallas. 


Stanley Litow  24:57  

As I mentioned Thomson Reuters offered 28 students, virtual internships in their senior year during COVID, a lot of people were wondering, are our paid internships going to be possible? They offered 28 students in Dallas, that kind of a virtual internship and hired 23 of the 28. Students at the Newburgh p tech school, a small community with a very difficult, you know, drug and crime problems in Newburgh, New York, that one p tech school represented two thirds of the graduates who earned an associate’s degree in cybersecurity, from the community college. So the businesses are getting something significant and important out of it. So they need to lead. 


Stanley Litow  25:49  

So we need our educators, we need our political leaders, we need our business leaders, there have not in education, as everyone knows, been a lot of really good examples of innovation that has gone to scale and becomes scalable. So when people look at p tech, going from one school in 10 years to 260, they say, well, that’s success. And yes, it is successful, but it’s not enough. So when you say what is the next step, I think the next step is to get that leadership in the political arena in the business arena, amongst civic organizations, parent groups, etc, to say, yes, this is something that could be offered not to 10s of 1000s, or hundreds of 1000s of students, but it could be offered to millions of students or all students. 


Stanley Litow  26:41  

Now, that’s not to say that this is the only education approach that works. That’s not the case. On the other hand, look at the example in Dallas, Texas, have a p tech school in every comprehensive high school in the city. If we follow that model, across the United States, I think we have the ability to turn our education system around. 


Stanley Litow  27:06  

And the reason I wrote about it in the book, with my co author, Tina Kelly was to give people a story about it that they could tell and persuade others. And one of the things I wanted to do in the book and and we spent a lot of time on is telling the story through the lens of individual students. So that when you read about shoe Don Brown, or you read about more Celine Mo’s it, when you read about any one of the students, they they broke down the barrier. And that demonstrates that the barriers, however they weren’t constructed, can be taken down and provide success for all students.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  27:50  

That’s such a big important piece of the education problem. And it’s something equity, we’re all becoming very, the awareness is super heightened right now. So what you’re saying, is, is so powerful. I want to unpack. my brain wants to go two directions right now.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  28:13  

before I unpack the whole internship and business partner piece, I do want to just step back, it sounds like kids curriculum isn’t typical High School, and then tack on the two years of college and maybe blend them a little bit. Because I can’t imagine very many 13 year olds getting learning how to write and present an elevator pitch in their ninth grade English class or social studies class. So is the P tech program influencing the content of the high school courses?


Stanley Litow  28:46  

Yes. I think that what’s important here to know is that, you know, when you come up with a new model, and you say, you know, we have to abandon the existing curriculum, and come up with a new curriculum, that’s something that will be structurally very, very difficult to do. Because, you know, education is a state function. It’s embedded in most state constitutions embedded in state law and state regulation. So the curriculum doesn’t change. How the curriculum is taught, is change through project based learning opportunities, etc. 


Stanley Litow  29:22  

So for example, I remember taking the president of Johns Hopkins University to a p tech school and we went into a math class. And the students were using their algebra skills to create business plans. The challenge was you’re going in competition with Nike, and you’re going to be developing a sneaker, but you’ve got to get investment for your new company. And let’s figure out how to put that business plan together and use those math skills and those algebra skills and doing it and students in the class. We’re in teams of four reinforced students together. And they were working on structuring their business plans and strategies using their math skills, using their writing skills using their problem solving skills. 


Stanley Litow  30:12  

And as we walked around the class, an algebra class, the president of Johns Hopkins was struck by all of the business plans around the room taped to the walls, he was completely blown away by how the students were interacting with one another, as they were doing their problem solving. And as he asked each group of students, what are you doing? What are you planning, they were talking about their business skills, their math skills, their presentation skills together, and we walked out into the hallway 


Stanley Litow  30:45  

Afterwards, he said to me, I’ve never seen a math class like that. And, and the students were excited, using their math skills. They understood that math wasn’t something separate from being able to learn to do things that you care about. It was something that was part of it. So the workplace skills are integrated into all of the classes. So it’s a math class, a science class and English class, a history class, the students are problem solving, the students are using math skills, the students are using writing skills, they using presentation skills. And as they learn to do that, they become more mature, they understand more about the workplace. And they also understand why these skills are important, not just for some things, but for all things. And they get supported by their faculty, by their teachers, and their mentors, who support them to be able to do this. 


Stanley Litow  31:50  

So that over a multiple number of years, grade 9, 10, 11, 12, the students are learning the content. They’re learning the curriculum, they’re learning the workplace skills, they’re moving through their high school classes, they’re moving through their college classes. So when I was at IBM, when we offer the paid internship to students in their in the summer between their junior and senior year in high school, which the first time was 100, up, because most ships were were completely reserved for upper class college students, and managers of interns in the company, were asked to rate the skill level of students. These are the other interns that they’d had. And the average was that they were skill level on par with juniors in college. so impressive. And that was because those skills, those important skills were reinforced five days a week, every week, over a multiple of years, so that those skills were part of what students had walking in the door.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  33:06  

And so many high school kids lament, when will I ever use this? What’s this good for the real world aspect of how it’s applied the interdisciplinary, which is real world, we don’t just do math or English, we have to blend things together. This is so powerful, and it sounds like then you’ve gotten the buy in from the teachers who perhaps are used to just doing their subject and they had their plans the way they like them and their textbook. You’ve gotten the buy in for them to be more interdisciplinary, collaborative, more of a coach, and less of the expert dispensing information. That to me sounds like a tricky switch. Has that been a challenge in the P tech schools?


Stanley Litow  33:50  

Well, I think one of the things that’s important in education in any education reform, is to make sure that the key stakeholders are part of the development process, and not receiving it in a package once it’s been completed. I think one of the things we know about principals about teachers, about any key stakeholder, parent, student leaders, they need to be in the tent involved in the creation and design of the model. And one of the reasons why teachers were so supportive of P tech is that they were part of that process from day one. 


Stanley Litow  34:34  

You know, when I was deputy Chancellor of schools in New York negotiating teacher contracts across the table. The person on the other end of the table was Randi Weingarten. Now the head of the American Federation of Teachers, and I learned and think she learned that you have your own interest and you have to balance your interest against the interest of the person or persons on the other side of the table. Then if you want a solution that works for all, it’s got to balance everyone’s interest. So getting teachers engaged and involved in this process was particularly important. The Brooklyn p tech school, which has such high, you know, student results also had the second highest teacher attendance of any of approximately 1800 schools in the city of New York. 


Stanley Litow  35:25  

So the teachers were part of the process. And they responded by being engaged and involved. And one of the reasons why the head of the teachers union, wrote the foreword to the book was to make that point clear to teachers that if you are involved and have a role in this process, Your support is critically important. The same is true of the principals. Ernie Logan, the head of the National principals, Union, a strong p tech supporter, we’ve had civil rights organizations, strong supporters, parent groups, civic groups, I think one week, one of the things that we’ve learned about education reform is even the things that make the most sense of all the idea of having innovative schools, the idea of having a common core of higher standards, these all make sense. 


Stanley Litow  36:20  

But if the key stakeholders are not involved, and if it’s implemented in a way where people are left out, then they become the opposition. So we really want is your reform to be engaging, and people sticking with it and become important stakeholders, not just to resist something. But to make it more effective, they have to have a seat at the table, they have to have a role in decision making. And I think one of the things about p tech in the design is it wasn’t designed, let’s wait six years. And if a school is successful, let’s try to replicate it. Let’s begin the process of replication almost from day one. And let’s involve people in the process. And let’s give them a role in making decisions. And then what we find out is they’re not the opposition. They’re part of your team.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  37:21  

Love it. I want to weave in before we stuck to overtime and learning more about you. business. It’s super hard. I’ve worked with big picture learning schools, it’s super hard to get businesses to say yeah, yeah, I’ll have a 17 year old come intern with me. How do you create that leg of the partnership they everybody knows teenagers can be pretty wonky. And a lot of businesses, it’s really hard to get the buy in what have you done?


Stanley Litow  37:49  

Well, I think one of the things that’s very helpful is that the businesses who were there at the beginning, like IBM, are very much willing to explain the positive results to their colleagues. And one of the things that I’ve learned in my career, whether in government, and not for profit, in business, in education is that, you know, people are more likely to listen to people who are in their line of business. 


Stanley Litow  38:18  

So if you’ve heard it from successful people in business, you’re more likely to be willing, you know, to go along, if you’re, if you’ve heard it from a governor, if you’ve heard it from a cabinet member, if you’ve heard it from a president, and then that’s your position, you’re also more likely to go along. And I think that one of the things that has been very helpful in terms of getting businesses on board is to get them to understand that they are going to identify the skills that they need, they’re going to identify the credential that they need. 


Stanley Litow  38:50  

And that’s going to be part of the education process from day one. And they’re going to have an opportunity to see those students as they progress over the year, ninth grade, 10th grade, 11th grade, etc. So these students are not coming in the door new their students that the business has had engagement and involvement with. There are structured workplace visits, where the students come to the workplace, spend a day working in teams, with people who are in the workplace. They are engaged with mentors who help them have access to an electronic site, mentor place where they can work on projects and problems together. 


Stanley Litow  39:35  

So these students, the businesses are seeing them develop and learn and grow. And you know, one of the things that we’ve seen over the last year or so is a lot of businesses making commitments and pledges about their hiring practices and saying that they want to hire more, you know, women for it jobs, they want to hire more children of color, people of color into their business, and you can make pledge, but p tech allows you the skill and the tool to meet those pledges and exceed those pledges. 


Stanley Litow  40:09  

So, you know, when we look at the number of students who have been hired already from the school in Brooklyn, about 99% of the students who attend that school are students of color. So it’s a pipeline of people with the right skill, talent, and abilities, and also provide the diversity that businesses know that they need. So as you said, win win. It’s win win win win. It’s that it just achieved all of the goals that we have.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  40:41  

Wow, I feel like we could go on for another hour. But your book is I’m holding right now. It’s, I love it. It’s exuberant kids with with their caps and gowns, and I college kids, that is what this is in the show notes. And we’re going to continue to weave this back into future podcasts as an example. 


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  41:06  

I do like to have a little time just to know you as a person. So I have a couple of turbo time questions for you. 


Stanley Litow  41:13  



Maureen O’Shaughnessy  41:14  

Okay. So Stanley, what is the last book you read?


Stanley Litow  41:19  

Well, the last book I read was actually President Obama’s biography of his first term in office as President of the United States. And it reminded me well, of those early days, coming out of the recession, and needing to focus in on a variety of things that had to be done differently. And it remembered so well, the creation of the design of P tech, back in 2010. You know, we were asked because my former boss, the CEO of IBM, Sam Palmisano, was at the US Open with the chancellor of schools at the time, Joel Klein, and asked, you know, did could IBM help in some way, coming up with a model or a new design for students? And I was asked to come up with that design, and did on a Thursday, and Mayor Bloomberg announced it on TV that Sunday. 


Stanley Litow  42:15  

So reading the book, but the president reminded me of those early years in 2010 2011, that sometimes a really important and innovative idea can move faster, even within a bureaucracy.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  42:32  

Yes, oh, my goodness, I love that. How about two inspirational folks you’d love to meet?


Stanley Litow  42:38  

Well, let’s see, I would love. I would love to meet the political leaders in Africa. I had an opportunity early on in my business career, when I was working for IBM, to visit South Africa and meet President of South Africa at the time. And I would love to have an opportunity to encourage political leaders in that part of the world, where there is a p tech program now in Morocco and in South Africa. And I would love to see it developed so that this is something that could could spread into the places that needed perhaps the most. 


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  43:20  

Love it. How about a TED talk that inspires you?


Stanley Litow  43:24  

Well, I love every TED Talk. That’s about education. I saw I saw your TED talk. I love everything that tries to get people motivated and interested about the importance of education, because one of the things that we know is that everybody’s gone to school, and they maybe they saw things that they loved, maybe they saw things that they didn’t. 


Stanley Litow  43:50  

But when you complete your education, that’s only the beginning. And you should get involved and be involved in education. Wherever you go. geographically. One of the programs I started at IBM was a program called transition to teaching. And there were a long, large number of people in IBM and in the IT industry who’ve always wanted to be a teacher, but for a variety of reasons. They chose a different career. 


Stanley Litow  44:19  

And then they hit their retirement, which we know these days is more likely to be mid 50s or late 50s, rather than, you know, late 60s, and then they’re looking for their encore career. And wouldn’t it be wonderful if hundreds of 1000s of people who have completed a career in business with a lot of skill, looked at teaching as an encore career, and we could recruit into education, that population of people what it would mean for our students then mean for our school. 


Stanley Litow  44:57  

So I think what I would say and I would love to listen to more TED talks about education, and hopefully inspire people to know that this is not something that’s over when you make your first career choice, we could get you into education at any point in your career.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  45:16  

Certainly, I think you have a future TED talk in you 


Stanley Litow  45:19  

I’d love to. 


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  45:21  

What’s the biggest thing you wish folks knew about college completion?


Stanley Litow  45:26  

I wish that people would stop talking about college doesn’t matter. College does matter. I think that people have, you know, because of how expensive it is, because of the time it takes a number of people now are saying that, well, you can just take a short term credential, and you can just participate in a six week program, and you don’t need college, that may work for a few people. 


Stanley Litow  45:53  

But for large numbers of people, college is important. Learning is important. And the skills for learning and continued growth are important. So what I would say is, college does matter. And I have not found a whole lot of people who are real leaders who say college doesn’t matter, who would say that to their own son to their own daughter, college doesn’t matter. College matters. And college needs to be more engaging. Absolutely. College needs to be more of an opportunity for learning growth. And the learning can’t end. 


Stanley Litow  46:33  

You know, in an earlier book, I wrote about an initiative at a company called at&t, they had about 100,000 employees who were working on at&t hardware. And that job was going out, they were eliminating those hardware things in the field. And moving to software, they had two choices, they could fire the 100,000 people and replace them if they could find people with the right skills, or they could make an investment in improving the skill level of those people who are working on hardware. And they chose that made their own investment of $250 million worth of education programs, and they really skilled their workforce and wound up keeping people on who were loyal employees, getting the productivity, not having to pay the price of recycling people out of the workforce. 


Stanley Litow  47:29  

So I think education and learning doesn’t end with college. It’s important, it should continue. And college and colleges can play a role in that continued education process. So I think education is perhaps the most important service that we can provide as a society, and it can’t be on the backburner. It needs to be something that’s part of our lives from day one. College matters. And it doesn’t end with college.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  48:02  

Yes. How about a one way that others can be activists to transform schools? This is gonna take all of us. How can people be doing that? 


Stanley Litow  48:12  

Well, I think they can be involved, they should get step up and be involved. There are not for profit organizations that are involved in making our schools better whether it’s, you know, an after school corporation that I participated on when it was founded in in New York, participating in civic organizations that are involved in education, you know, we don’t really appreciate the fact that while education is a function with government money, a lot of not for profit organizations are deeply involved with our schools, providing mental health services, social services, a whole range of employment and job development kinds of services. 


Stanley Litow  48:56  

So being involved in not for profit organizations as a way to improve education being involved in your parent organizations and teacher organizations and other civic enterprises. And there are school boards, then people can be appointed or people can run for school board. So what I would say is, if you have a passion for improving education, be involved, get involved, and stay involved.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  49:24  

Be involved, get involved. stay involved. Yes, yes. And what is something that most people don’t know about you, Stanley?


Stanley Litow  49:37  

Well, as you said, my career spanned every sector. I worked in government, I worked in the education system. I worked in the private sector, in the not for profit world. I worked in all those areas, but what most people would probably not know is back when I was A student in college. There, there was a political campaign I volunteered for somebody running for mayor of New York. And I on the campaign organized the first impeach the president rally in Washington Square Park back in the 1970s. So most people who work in business and a business career Don’t think about hiring people who had as part of their early experience that kind of an advocacy effort, but that was part of my learning experience.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  50:33  

I think that’s awesome. It’s when we wear lots of different hats, we bring so many perspectives in Yeah, that’s Yes. So I close my interview with a magic wand. Question. So, Stanley, if you had a magic wand, what would you wish? So that p tech became just as common as dual enrollment or high school graduation? What was your wish? To make that mental shift for us?


Stanley Litow  51:02  

I would wish that people would understand from the P tech experience, what is really possible, that throw out all these preconceived notions that these young people can’t achieve anything they can’t learn. They can’t, you know, lead. And I would say that the experience of P tech. And the reason why the book was titled breaking barriers is it takes down all of those barriers and misconceptions that keep us away from making the kinds of changes that we would like to see. And as I’m now involved in my own encore career, having retired my desire, as I teach at Duke or Columbia, and right is to inspire and help the next generation to take an innovation like p tech over the finish line. And the finish line for me means making it available for all students.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  52:11  

That’s equity at its largest definition. Stanley, you are amazing. And this has been such a wonderful interview. Thank you so much. 


Stanley Litow  52:23  

Thank you, Maureen. I really appreciate it.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  52:33  

what a life of fully lived, Stanley Litow is drawing on all of his experience, and resources to leave this amazing legacy for learners. There are so many lessons to be learned from talking with Stanley. What possibilities like the urban core do we have for youth today? So they can be contributing to their communities? How could college work studies stretch and connect with the community so that our young have a chance to grow a sense of civic responsibility and service. And then Stanley goes on to work in the government and ponder with a think tank on school success, and the needed advocacy that goes with that. So I wonder how civic responsibility helped him want to be a part of the solution. So that’s one place I want to start thinking.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  53:29  

It’s also speaking volumes, that from his Think Tank, Stanley was asked to be the deputy Chancellor for the New York schools, and then tapped by IBM to be the global citizenship program director. Yes, Stanley is talented and a visionary. Beyond this, schools, looking to government and business looking to schools to cross pollinate is an important message. Our silos don’t allow us to get the best of a variety of perspectives. 


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  54:02  

This is what excites me about our EdActive collective. We’re breaking down the silos and collaborating for school change. I’ll be sure to put the link in our show notes. Stanley’s already volunteered to do some behind the scenes coaching as we step into advocacy more fully as a collective. 


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  54:21  

I wanted to make sure I asked questions that highlighted that this is not just another dual enrollment program where kids can do 11th and 12th grade at a community college and get double credit. The P tech program is an intentional scope and sequence for six years of project based learning that results in the development of specific skill sets. These kids are college ready. These kids are mentored. They get to get into businesses have paid internships in high school. They are very much empowered to explore their capabilities. And the careers that interest them. It would also be easy to dismiss this as just another vocational program. 


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  55:07  

Stanley made a point of sharing that students in this program often continued to complete a bachelor’s degree and advanced degrees, and that the completion rate for students in the two year associate’s program is much higher in p Tech students than the general population. So this program is a springboard for success in college and subsequent careers. And I want to touch on Stanley’s explanation of how all key stakeholders have to be in the conversation, I unpacked the need for multiple and opposite perspectives in the school transformation conversation. 


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  55:48  

In my podcast with Lindsay Burr, we talk about polarity thinking. And she explains that we all have the common goal for our learners to succeed. And we need to start there, and then look at the things we need to keep in one camp and the things we need to keep in the other camp. Continuity transformation, there is room for keeping and changing in both perspectives. So this bringing the stakeholders together was the theme of my recent TED Talk. And it was also my awareness that I have to step away from really focusing on change and not working with those who are in the continuity camp. There’s so much room for divergent thinking. And unless we get all the stakeholders at the table, as Stanley said, we’re going to have opposition, and students don’t have time for us to invite, they need maximum resources. So that equitable achievement is available now, for every learner. 


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  56:49  

Stanley’s book is a delight. And the link is in our show notes. It’s an easy read with lots of anecdotes and specific steps we can take. It’s only 172 pages. This is not a scholarly tome. It’s a how to get stuff done book. I appreciate that. With his nimble brain and vast experience. He can go from government to schools to business. He connects these dots for us. And he highlights lessons that we can use for broader reform. He mentions other ways we can create change. He talks about the connections between business in the classroom. And he embeds highlights from these various collaborations. 


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  57:33  

So many ideas are sparked from what he shares. I know I’m going to be reaching out to some school leaders to see if p tech is a known entity here in Washington State, and also how I might be able to connect to these leaders to Stanley and his book. Until every student has full access to an education that makes them future ready. More programs need to be available. P tech, as Stanley and I said in our conversation is a win win, win win. Be sure to read the book and advocate for this resource in all comprehensive high schools. Thank you for listening today.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  58:25  

I know how challenging it is to make changes inside your own school or community. I’ve spent years traveling working with schools around the world on creating learner centered programs. And it always struck me on how much schools were able to get them with the right tools and guidance. If you’re ready to make changes like this in your school, or to start a new school, let’s talk and put together an action plan. Visit education forward slash consult for a free 15 minute call. And let’s see if we’re a good fit for more work together.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  59:09  

Education Evolution listeners, you are the ones to ensure we create classrooms where each student is seen, heard, valued and thriving. We need you let’s go out and reach every student today. Leaving a rating and review for this podcast lets others know that you find it a value and it gets in the earbuds of more educational leaders like you. Thank you listeners signing off. This is Maureen O’Shaughnessy, your partner in boldly reimagining education


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