Ten experimental high schools have each won $10 million from Laurene Powell Jobs to help remodel the shape of education in America.
Announced last month, the ten winners were selected from over 700 applicants to the XQ: The Super School Project by a panel of 42 judges. Each of the ten winners come from across the country and each are approaching education in very different ways. Which, to Powell Jobs is the whole point.
To Powell Jobs, the education system utilized today was developed more than 100 years ago and little about it has changed since, despite how much America and its population has. And while graduation rates reached a new peak in 2014, 82.3 percent, the gap between white students who graduated on time and African-American students who did the same was nearly 15 percentage points.
When the Super School Project was first announced in 2015, Powell Jobs was promising $50 million to five schools. But five has since turned into ten.
“We cannot build schools of the future unless they serve all students,” XQ chief executive Russlynn Ali told the Los Angeles Times last year. “We are helping to restore the promise of our public high schools to become the great equalizer they were intended to be.”
The idea, Ali has explained, is that in the past schools treat time as a fixed thing — students are always expected to be at their desks — and educational standards variable. Among other factors, each of the ten winning schools is approaching this idea in a new way.
“What they need to know and be able to do will become what is non-negotiable. The time that it takes to get there, that is what is flexible,” Powell Jobs told USA Today.
For instance, one winner, the Los Angeles-based RISE High, is looking to bring education to homeless and foster children who often struggle getting to and staying in school. In addition to having a year round schedule to meet the needs of all students, RISE High will have a “mobile resource center” that will bring Wi-Fi, homework assistance, and even washers and dryers to students.
“We started to realize that … the traditional school setting that we were both working in was really limiting,” co-creator Kari Croft told the Times. “They were getting penalized for missing the full range of services they needed.”
Other winning schools include a Louisiana school situated on a barge, where students will learn about coastal erosion, a Michigan school partnering with the Grand Rapids Public Museum, Brooklyn Lab High School that collaborates with technology companies, and the Washington Leadership Academy situated in Washington D.C.
Powell Jobs knows how great a leap XQ is taking. “We were trying something new, and when you try something new you don’t know where it’s going to lead and how it’s going to unfold,” she said
For their ambitious desire to make a great impact in American education, for their innovation in doing so, and for all their hard work, we are proud to name Laurene Powell Jobs, everyone at the XQ Institute, and all the winners of the XQ Super School Project our Luminaries of the week.
For a complete list of winners go here.