President Obama to visit Manor New Technology High School in Texas

    22 May, 2013


    From VOA Learning English, this is the Education Report in Special English.

    An unusual high school in Texas recently welcomed a special visitor. President Obama visited Manor New Technology High School near the city of Austin. The visit was part of what the White House called a "Middle Class Jobs and Opportunity Tour."

    Manor New Technology High School seeks to help prepare students to meet the increasing demand for technology workers. The school has gained nationwide recognition for its program. It focuses less on teacher lectures, and more on student projects in so-called "STEM subjects" -- Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

    Most of the teachers who helped start the school six years ago were graduates of a program called "UTeach" at the University of Texas in Austin. They are still working at the high school today. Lawrence Abraham is one of the directors of the "UTeach" program, he praises the program and the teachers at Manor New Technology High School.

    "They put together the curriculum, which has elevated this school, among all the new tech schools in the network around the country, to be the premier site, and we think it is the marriage of the UTeach program, which prepares teachers and encourages teachers to teach in a project-based way, with the new tech curriculum model, which is designed to incorporate that."

    Manor New Technology has 332 students, 68 percent are from ethnic or racial minorities, and 52 percent are from poor families. The Texas school sent 97 percent of its graduates to college in 2011 and all of its graduates in 2012. Most schools, however, do not have the financial support that Manor New Technology receives. It gets help from private organizations and state and federal funding. And technology schools are sometimes criticized for not paying enough attention to the arts and social sciences.

    Last year, Texas governor Rick Scott proposed an end to state financial aid to university programs in subjects like psychology and anthropology. The goal was to put more money into STEM programs that he said that would provide people with jobs. But some educators say that kind of thinking ignores the gains possible with the learning.

    University of Texas history professor Jeremi Suri says the goal of education goes beyond preparation for employment.

    "Obviously science and math literacy are crucial, but democratic citizenship requires that people have a sense of our historical background as a society, a sense of how our society functions and an understanding of what democracy looks like in theory and in practice."

    Professor Suree says today more than ever, workplace success depends on good communication, and ability to work well with others as a team.

    And that's the Education Report from VOA Learning English, I'm  Bob Doughty.