Transforming Classrooms, Schools, and Systems

Statway: New Pathways Through College Math

This innovative attempt to solve a systemic problem in math—how to teach developmental math to students who enter college underprepared for college-level work—could transform math education and make higher level math more accessible to students for whom it is a 'barrier course' to graduation. MORE

Connecting to Your Work

How can you mobilize to help transform schools and systems to maximize student potential? Read recommended actions from The Opportunity Equation report. MORE

In a transformed system, all students leave high school fully prepared for success in college and careers, with many more students prepared for success in STEM studies and careers.MORE


School of One: Re-imagining the Traditional Classroom

Learn more about how this i3 winner is re-imagining—and redefining—personalized math instruction through a middle school program in New York City. MORE

New Tech Network’s STEM-Focused High Schools: Project-Based Learning for Skills to Succeed in a Changing World

New Tech Network high schools educate and prepare students to succeed in a changing world. The small schools, each designed to serve 500 students, provide project-based learning focused on exploration and inquiry, while students engage in four-student peer groups to master all state graduation requirements. Technology is fully integrated into instruction and supports the entire school community. New Tech high schools serve as examples—in their communities and their states—of innovative public education that is based on whole school development, strong partnerships, and educating and inspiring students to develop 21st century skills, in addition to acquiring and applying content knowledge. Their STEM-focused high schools also serve as models for schools that choose science, technology, engineering, and mathematics as a curricular focus.

Program at-a-Glance

New Tech Network (NTN) grew out of an experimental high school in Napa, California, that used project-based learning as a pedagogical tool for all instruction. Now, less than 15 years after that school opened, there are 62 similar schools in 14 states, with more coming on line each year.

While individual schools may set their own policies, New Tech Network supports equity and social justice in all aspects of its design—including admissions policies—and the model is designed and intended to serve academically unprepared students and bring them to college-readiness through a unique combination of engagement instruction and academic rigor.

The model is designed and intended to serve academically unprepared students and bring them to college-readiness through a unique combination of engagement, instruction, and academic rigor.

Each New Tech high school may choose a particular curricular focus (e.g., STEM, global issues, or the environment), but all schools incorporate project-based instructional strategies. Those strategies are an amalgam of practices developed by the Buck Institute for Education and innovations drawn from NTN. The result is an institutional model that becomes a collaboration among all stakeholders. Students engage in an extended process of inquiry in response to a complex question, problem, or challenge. While allowing for student "voice and choice," these rigorous projects are carefully planned, managed, and assessed to help students learn key academic content; practice 21st century skills such as collaboration, communication, and critical thinking; use technology; and create authentic products.

A network-wide learning platform with integrated technology is used daily by teachers, students, parents, and coaches to support project-based learning. The platform gives access to course materials, learning tasks, grades, and an extensive library of resources shared across the New Tech Network. It helps teachers and students manage the complexities of project-based learning and includes centralized class resources, authentic student assessment, and project management.

To launch a new NTN school, local districts must lay a solid foundation for the model by making commitments to ensure success. Commitment criteria include:

  • Creation of an autonomous public high school with a unique identity
  • Maximum school size of up to 500 students
  • Ability for the school director to hire and evaluate staff to meet the distinct needs of the model
  • Access to a computer for every student and teacher
  • Scheduling flexibility to support team teaching and cross-curricular projects
  • School-wide, high-speed Internet access
  • Dedicated IT support for the school
  • Creation of physical learning spaces that support team teaching and student collaboration

Schools with a STEM Focus

Twenty four schools in the network have chosen science, technology, engineering, and math, or STEM, as their curricular focus. “STEM learning engages students and provides rigorous academics,” explains Monica Martinez, New Tech Network CEO. And New Tech’s emphasis on teaching, assessment, and grading of 21st century skills (such as work ethic, problem solving, critical thinking, and collaboration) “maximizes the likelihood that students exit high school with the skills needed in collaborative workplaces such as those found in advanced STEM fields.”

The New Tech model allows for the melding of STEM disciplines into courses such as history or literature, which traditionally do not include STEM topics. Some schools adopt or adapt existing programs, such as Project Lead the Way or FIRST Robotics; others create new programs that build on lessons derived from a growing program library that is vetted by teachers and other educators and used throughout the New Tech Network. Teachers and students share their project ideas, continually adding to the project library as part of the online learning environment.

"STEM learning engages students and provides rigorous academics."

New Tech high schools aim to empower students to reach new levels of performance and involvement in their school work. Traditional high school courses such as English, math, and science are combined as teams of students work in a 1:1 computer environment, researching, communicating, and solving real problems in their community. New Tech Network schools use innovative curricula to engage students as they develop presentations to demonstrate their knowledge and skills. Grades are based on factors such as work ethic, collaboration, communication, critical thinking, and content knowledge. Most students participate in internships and postsecondary coursework during their junior and senior years, providing them with a taste of advanced STEM study and careers.

One example of a STEM-focused New Tech school is the Math, Engineering, Technology and Science Academy (METSA), a Title I school on the R.L Turner High School campus in Carrollton, Texas. METSA has a mission to inspire a community of lifelong learners who meet or exceed state educational requirements and graduate prepared to pursue their postsecondary ambitions in math, science, technology, or engineering. Started in 2007, its 223 students participate in projects, presentations, senior exhibitions, and internships. And, its graduating students complete a portfolio that demonstrates their mastery of the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills, as well as 21st-century learning outcomes. Its students score 8-20 points higher than their district peers in state exams.

Additional Information: See what happens in NTN Schools