Access to Opportunities
By Dr. Michael Hinojosa, Former Superintendent of the Dallas Independent School District
Dallas ISD is fast becoming the main pipeline for the workforce and the region’s chief economic mobility institution, thanks in large part to the district’s P-TECH programs.
Natural ability, hard work and perseverance are ingredients in the formula for success, but they can be obsolete without access to opportunity. That’s where Dallas ISD P-TECH programs is making the difference, especially for Latinas.
The Dallas ISD P-TECH—available at 18 comprehensive high schools—has become the most significant source of opportunity for Dallas students, including Latinas, who make up more than 40% of the students enrolled in P-TECH. In 2021-2022, Latina students made up 45% of the senior class, and of those young women, 62% earned more than 45 college credit hours, saving them thousands of dollars on college tuition.
Since their inception, Dallas ISD’s Pathways in Technology Early College High School programs have made a profound difference in the lives of thousands of students— 10 percent of graduates have earned an associate degree for free.
P-TECH is an open-enrollment program whose main impetus is to provide students who are historically underserved a way to get ahead in their college careers for free while they are attending high school. The hallmark of the P-TECH model is its career focus and the provision of work-based education through industry partners, which in Dallas ISD includes most of the leading employers in the region.
Because individual programs are developed working closely with industry partners, the knowledge and skills students acquire align with regional workforce needs, guiding students into high-demand, high-wage careers where skilled workers are needed.
Developing a successful P-TECH program at Dallas ISD has been one of the great sources of pride in my career as an educator. Without a doubt, a P-TECH program would have made a difference for my family had it been available when we started school as immigrants from Mexico.
My oldest sister had a keen mind and amazing math abilities, but because she did not speak the language, she was not encouraged, leading to frustration and unfulfilled potential. Had there been a P-TECH at the time, her skills would have been celebrated and channeled into a career pathway that would have allowed her to flourish as many Latinas have in the years since its inception.
When I think about the power of P-TECH, I often tell the stories of Nancy (pictured) and Zenia, young Latinas who attended one of our P-TECH programs. They both had internships at American Airlines, one of the schools’ industry partners. As an intern, Zenia helped solve a tech problem in the Dominican Republic that had baffled the airline’s engineers. She had an advantage—she spoke English, Spanish, and code. After her internship, Nancy was offered a job as an IT web developer for the airline with a high salary, retirement savings and other perks that she might not have had otherwise.
P-TECH is a game changer in the lives of generations of our children. It is helping them build agency, and they will, in turn, bring empowerment to their families and communities. This is education’s real purpose, what drives many into the field of education, and a program any superintendent would be proud to leave as a legacy.
Dr. Michael Hinojosa was the superintendent of the Dallas Independent School District (DISD) and formerly superintendent of the Cobb County School District.