P21 Case Study: Manor New Tech High School

September 19, 2017

This case study originally appeared on P21.org

Manor New Tech High extends the New Tech High model by featuring enhanced project based learning experiences and STEM education, in addition to embedding technology within the entire curriculum. 21st Century Skills are emphasized and on display in every classroom and for every project.

School Profile:

  • Public High School started in 2007 & serves 400+ students
  • Diverse population: 55% free/ reduced lunch, 48% Hispanic, 23% Caucasian, 22% Black, 4% Asian
  • Follows rigorous STEM and PBL approaches
  • 100% of graduates are accepted into college
  • Nearly two-thirds are the first in their families to go to college

The beginning of a bold mission

Manor New Tech High was formed in 2007 to serve students from several chronically underperforming schools in the district. The vision was bold: Start a STEM school from scratch and suffuse it with project based learning.  The vision for Manor New Tech was based on a fundamental belief in what’s been termed a “growth mindset”.  This bold vision and belief in the potential of all students to learn and prosper when provided with effective support and scaffolding has paid off handsomely.  Not only have students excelled in this environment with a very challenging curriculum, the school has become a model for others. It was featured as a model STEM school by the National Research Council as well as by President Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

The broader mission of the school is to prepare students to succeed in the 21st century’s information-based, globally competitive and technology-enabled society. Teaching and learning at Manor New Tech emphasizes relationships and collaboration with peers, businesses, and the community. Through project and problem-based learning experiences, students develop and regularly exercise interpersonal and intra-personal skills like communication, collaboration, problem-solving, metacognitive skills, and creativity. The core values of the school reflect key personal and socio-emotional attributes the community values such as respect, integrity, responsibility, perseverance and trust. The expectations are high and as a result, students gain resiliency as well as confidence in their growing skills and capabilities.

Project Based Learning holds the key

Manor New Tech High was started by Stephen Zipkes, an experienced school principal with a keen interest in research and best practices.  Early funding came through the Texas High School Project. Steve fashioned the school on the New Tech High Model that has three principal components: the use of a project-based learning instructional approach to offer engaging, collaborative opportunities for learning; the use of technology integrated across the curriculum; and the creation of a school culture that is based on trust, respect, and responsibility (National Research Council, pdfSuccessful K-12 STEM Education, 2011).  The “growth mindset” was in essence an answer for those who might have questioned the investment in the school and the ability of the students at Manor New Tech High to tackle not just a high school, but a deep, project-based, STEM school.  As Steve puts it “we need to get students from mastery to transfer and Project-Based Learning (PBL) facilitates this”.

Steve recruited staff who shared his growth mindset and who recognized the power of PBL to engage students in their learning in a way they never experienced before.  Essential academic skills are taught in an integrated STEM curriculum that stresses 21st Century Skills and implements 1:1 technology in a seamless way.  The technology is embedded into the rhythm of teaching and learning and is as natural in its application as any other component of school.

PBL is implemented thoroughly in the school. In their four years at Manor New Tech High a typical student can expect to participate in roughly 200 projects, 50 per year, and there is a requirement for 40 hours of community service. Parents are regularly communicated with about the project work and community service to help ensure good support to students is provided at home.  Expectations for parents are high, just as they are for their children.

The Think Forward Institute

As the demands of continuous PBL are great, support for teachers is essential to ensure that projects are authentic, engaging and relevant.  Each Monday, teachers meet for two hours of common planning time in order to work together on their joint projects and interdisciplinary curriculum. In order to meet the demands of their PBL commitment, the school developed its own professional development program called the pdfThink Forward Institute that goes beyond most training for PBL. Over the past few years, the institute, which is taught by the schools’ own teachers, has become a popular professional development destination among educators outside the district and spurred the formation of a separate company to satisfy the growing demand.

What’s Ahead

Manor New Tech High opened its doors to 160 students in 2007 and serves more than twice that many in 2015. Plans are underway to increase capacity to 600 students over the next two years. The community recently passed a bond that will enable significant improvements and expansion of the school with capacity for 1,800 students.  Among the incredible possibilities ahead are a fabrication lab featuring nano-technology and a partnership with Nathan University that will enable students to gain valuable certification in nano-technology and aid their admission into college. More work with business, community and university partners like the Make a Wish Foundation, the Business Professionals of America and the University of Texas is also ahead as the school continues to emphasize authentic project based learning and prepare students for the future in and beyond the 21st century.


This case study was written by Christopher Brown, and compiled by Tatyana Warrick


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