The XQ Institute, which is led by Lauren Powell Jobs, the widow of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, has announced a $50 million competition to reimagine and redesign the American high school.
The XQ: Super School Project, as the competition is called, is an open call to create high schools that prepare students for the rigorous challenges of college, jobs, and life in the twenty-first century. To that end, the project will provide at least five winning teams with expert support and funds totaling $50 million over five years to create model "Super Schools." Teams comprising U.S. residents age 13 and older are invited to submit their concepts and confirm their eligibility by November 15, while proposals for the discovery and design phases are due by February 2016. During the latter phase, teams will explore the needs and aspirations of the youth and communities they aim to serve, along with the latest scientific research about learning, then will be invited to apply that knowledge to reinvent high school as most teens currently experience it.
Design elements can include school mission and culture, teaching and learning, student agency and engagement, and networks and partnerships. Up to fifty semi-finalists will be invited to complete the development phase in March, with up to twenty-five finalists selected in June and the five winners to be announced in August.
While Powell Jobs is a long-time supporter of College Track, which helps low-income students enroll and succeed in college, the XQ project, the New York Times notes, is the highest-profile project launched to date by the Emerson Collective, which Powell Jobs uses to finance her philanthropic projects. Advisers to the project include Russlynn H. Ali, who worked in the Obama administration's Department of Education as an assistant secretary for civil rights, and Michelle Cahill, an education expert who has served as a senior adviser to former New York City schools chancellor Joel I. Klein.
"[Our public education] system was created for the workforce we needed a hundred years ago," Powell Jobs told the Times. "Things are not working the way we want it to be working. We’ve seen a lot of incremental changes over the last several years, but we’re saying, 'Start from scratch.'"