This case study of Manor New Tech High (MNTH) is the first in a set of 12 school-level cases on inclusive STEM-focused high schools (ISHSs). Unlike older, highly selective STEMfocused schools that target students already identified as being STEM gifted/talented, the goal of ISHSs is to develop new sources of STEM talent among underrepresented minority students and provide them with the means to succeed in school and in STEM college majors, jobs, and careers. MNTH is one such ISHS located in Manor, Texas; the school was founded in 2007 amidst a confluence of factors including an innovative Texas STEM education policy initiative for new STEM schools, seed money from private foundations, and the desire of the school district and community to improve student outcomes for its diverse student body.
This case study provides an in-depth look at the MNTH’s design, implementation, and outcomes, examining the school using a frame of ten candidate critical components culled from the research literature. A team of six researchers visited the school in May 2012 and systematically collected data from classroom observations, interviews, and focus groups, as well as examining public information documents and outcome records. This examination of MNTH revealed valuable insights into a successful ISHS; the school provides an innovative instructional environment, different from that found in traditional, comprehensive public schools. This environment fostered a community of students and teachers who were open to creating opportunity structures and taking advantage of them.
Analyses showed that some of the ten candidate critical components were more salient than others at MNTH. In particular, the project-based learning and instructional environment that existed in all classes at the school, STEM and non-STEM alike, changed the dynamic of the classes, the human relationships, and the ubiquitous role of technology in the school. The learning community supported by this instructional approach appeared to enhance student self-efficacy, and a sense of group efficacy among all those involved with the school. Furthermore, students did not just learn about 21st Century Skills, but rather students adopted and infused them into projects. MNTH has also built a robust network of student supports, or opportunity structures, to help students and families achieve the school’s mission. These supports particularly target those student groups who are traditionally under-represented in STEM fields, including those who are first-generation in their families to attend college, and help them be confident in their abilities in STEM, projecting their understanding of STEM disciplines by tackling real world problems. Indeed, virtually all students graduate from MNTH having been admitted to college, and the school has consistently high achievement scores on state measures. Additionally, the positive school culture promotes a sense of MNTH’s being “Our House” for all who attend, with the school becoming a strong, supportive extended family for students and staff. Finally, MNTH is led by a dynamic principal whose enthusiasm is contagious and who hired a strong, flexible, collaborative, and creative teaching staff that can execute the MNTH vision and take it to high level of realization in the context of Texas STEM schools.