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NY Announces New High School for Software Engineering

by Michael Stal on Jan 14, 2012 |

Mayor Bloomberg announced recently the opening of a high school for software engineering in New York. The school will be located in Union Square. The main driver behind this idea has been Mike Zemansky, a computer science teacher. According to Bloomberg this is part of a bigger strategy where New York will open new Career and Technical Education Schools in the next years.

Technology companies keep sprouting everywhere and searching for skilled experts. This development has also a huge impact on New York where the demand for technology skilled persons by far exceeds the number of technology-oriented students educated by schools. Due to that reason Mayor Bloomberg and Fred Wilson have joined their forces and influence to improve the situation.

According to Wilson, a VC and Principal of  Union Square Ventures, the school …

will be open to all students as part of the high school admissions process in NYC. The City's goal (and mine too) is to open up opportunities for many more students than the small number of specialized schools can deliver. Hopefully the curriculum that is developed and teachers that are trained at the Academy will get rolled out into high schools all over the city in the coming years. The Gotham Gal and I have provided the initial financial support to hire a new schools team and recruit a top notch Principal. But we do not want to be front and center in this story. The team at the DOE and City Hall that has brought this school to life and the Advisory Board of educators and industry leaders (led by Evan Korth of NYU) should get way more credit for what has happened to date. And we will need more financial and industry support (as well as a fantastic Principal) to make this school a success. So if you would like to join us in this effort, please email me via the contact link at the bottom of this blog and let me know how you would like to help. This is an ambitious effort and we will need it.

According to Joel Spolsky, a board member for the new school,

the 400 to 500 students who enroll will also get a "rigorous" academic education that will prepare them for college. Still, Spolsky admits that "college is not for everyone--many of the best programmers I know were just not interested enough in a general four-year degree and went straight into jobs programming.


 

It is not difficult to anticipate that other regions might follow this approach if it turns out to be successful.

Readers, what is your take on this?

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We did this in Brazil and it works ! by Nilo Menezes

More than 20 years ago, Sharp Brasil had what we call a technical high school. It is a 3 years, full time study period that teaches informatics (software) or electronics. Nokia took this project on early 2000's... and it continues to work.
I think they never figured out the success they would have... but a lot of very good students left this school, and many pursued their university studies after on. I can count at least 3 PhD and 4 MS in my class of 34 students.
More than that, it worked in Manaus, a city in the middle of Amazon ! So I think it will be a huge success on NY too. Fundação Nokia
And it was not a nerd factory, it also produces physicians, musicians and other professionals. We were also ready to enroll in very good universities.
The rigorous part is really important. We learn how to program computers (Pascal, C, etc), physics, mathematics but also how to play many sports (soccer, volleyball, handball, basketball) with an also rigorous exercise program.

Re: We did this in Brazil and it works ! by James Watson

When I look back to when I was in high-school and try to imagine picking my career at that point, I struggle to see how that would have been good for me. For ages, western education has been built upon a broad base of general knowledge with specialization coming later. We seem to be moving towards a world where people have silos of knowledge. This might be effective for maximizing knowledge in one particular area but will likely result in some negative consequences. In particular, the channels that allow chaotic mingling of ideas could be choked-off. We may end up super-optimizing the inventions of the past but lose some of our ability to innovate.

When I started my college career, I was a physics major. I did reasonably well but after 2 years I decided that computer science was a better fit for me. I was able to take some CS classes before making the decision. If I had gone to a school specifically for physics, such a switch would be a much bigger decision. I would have to transfer schools, perhaps even before I was sure I wanted to switch.

I'm sure there are people that know they want to be programmers and perhaps computer 'trade schools' have some value. I worry though that kids will be forced to choose a career before they are ready (or by their parents) for fear that a more traditional general education will be seen as inferior. Why can't we revamp the general curriculum to make it more relevant and offer more options within that curriculum?

Re: We did this in Brazil and it works ! by Bill Pyne

I can see your point James but I'm not as worried because education standards still exist and the founders are not suggesting a new model for education.

Even though the emphasis is going to be engineering the school is still bound by the DOE to provide a core set of classes that involve reading, writing, literature, and history. High schools for the performing arts have been around for several decades and they're still bound by general curriculum rules.

The model they're talking about has been in existence in Germany for decades. One particular example given to me by a German friend is a school for languages. The students in it are still responsible for non-language classes but they study 4 foreign languages by graduation. In the US, we went this route for trades and performing arts a few decades ago. Engineering is the next point of emphasis.

I think there are plenty of kids who would not fit well in a subject specific school. But there are enough who enjoy a narrow focus and this school will be wonderful for them.

Will it help the US overall to develop a better engineering force? Under current conditions, I doubt it but the school is going to be positive for kids who are attracted to that subject.

Re: We did this in Brazil and it works ! by James Watson


The model they're talking about has been in existence in Germany for decades. One particular example given to me by a German friend is a school for languages. The students in it are still responsible for non-language classes but they study 4 foreign languages by graduation. In the US, we went this route for trades and performing arts a few decades ago. Engineering is the next point of emphasis.


I think the idea of a high-school that offers a focus on engineering has some merit as long as it is somewhat broadly defined. What concerns me about this is the narrow focus of these schools. An with software in particular, I think we have too many people that know programming but don't know much about anything else. This contributes to the challenges of getting software that actually solves real-world problems properly. We need some experts in programming itself but need a lot more people who understand other domains and can translate them into software.

Re: We did this in Brazil and it works ! by Bill Pyne

"An with software in particular, I think we have too many people that know programming but don't know much about anything else. This contributes to the challenges of getting software that actually solves real-world problems properly. We need some experts in programming itself but need a lot more people who understand other domains and can translate them into software."

+1

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