XQ Institute Announces 10 Winners of ‘Super Schools’ Competition

By
XQ Institute

What event can bring together the likes of Jill Biden, MC Hammer, Geoffrey Canada, Nancy Pelosi, and a crowd of educators, students and investors? The official announcement of winners of the XQ: Super School Project.

In September 2015, Laurene Powell Jobs and the nonprofit Emerson Collective challenged the country to redesign the American high school with the launch of the XQ: Super School Project. “There is a huge gap between what students want for their future and what their schools are offering,” Powell Jobs told The New York Times back then.

On Sept. 14, 2016, Laurene Powell Jobs and XQ Institute CEO Russlynn Ali took to the stage in Washington, D.C. to announce the winners, selected from approximately 700 applicants. The campaign (originally described as a “$50 million” effort) was intended to provide five school model designers with $10 million over the next five years, but the total prize pot came closer to $102 million, distributed across ten “super schools” and a few runner-ups.

“This is only the beginning,” said Powell Jobs upon the conclusion of the event, encouraging school designers to continue efforts to “rethink high school”—the slogan of XQ’s Super School campaign.

Here are the winners.

1. New Harmony High School (New Harmony, LA)

New Harmony hopes to make its “school on a barge” concept a reality with its $10 million. The school will teach students about real-world skills related to coastal restoration and urban planning by bringing students out into the middle of the wetlands of Plaquemines Parish—on a barge. “I’ve never been to school on a barge,” former U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said while announcing New Harmony’s win. More from NOLA.com here.

2. Furr High School (Houston, TX)

A member of the Houston Independent School District, Furr will use the money to push for more place-based and project-based learning. Furr will also focus on beefing up its environmental curriculum, teaching students about the preservation of natural resources. “Pretty good is not good enough for us,” said Furr’s Principal Dr. Bertie Simmons. For local coverage, see the Houston Chronicle.

3. Grand Rapids Public Museum School (Grand Rapids, MI)

$10 million will go to Grand Rapids Public Schools, enabling the public district to renovate the Grand Rapids Public Museum (an 80-year-old institution) into a new high school. More local coverage from Michigan Radio.

4. Rise High School (Los Angeles, CA)

Proposed by two Los Angeles teachers, Kari Croft and Erin Whalen, this charter high school will be designed with homeless students and foster children in mind. RISE stands for “Revolutionary Individualized Student Experience.” As the Los Angeles Times describes, the school will have a bus outfitted with a “mobile resource” system to travels to students, “three to four physical sites sharing space with existing nonprofits,” and an online learning platform.

5. Powderhouse Studios(Somerville, MA)

Hoping to create an IDEO-like high school, nonprofit sprout & co is teaming up with Somerville Public Schools to create a year-round school called Powderhouse Studios where students pursue projects of their interests over the year. More local coverage here from the Boston Globe.

6. Brooklyn Lab High School (Brooklyn, NY)

Harlem Children's Zone founder Geoffrey Canada introduced Brooklyn Lab as a school that “will build bridges between students and the economy.” Brooklyn Lab will use the $10 million to build partnerships with local nonprofits, cultural institutions, businesses, and universities to give students career experience.

7. Design-Lab High School (Wilmington, DE)

MC Hammer introduced this public charter high school as using “a design thinking framework to help students continually build think and improve.” Opened in August 2015, the school also brings STEMD curriculum (science, technology, engineering, media and design) to its students.

Vista Challenge High will use the money to spread rigorous personalized learning and “authentic examination.” According to nonprofit supporter Digital Promise, the San Diego-based public high school promotes “flexible learning environments that extend beyond the four walls of a traditional program.”

9. Washington Leadership Academy (Washington, D.C.)

As one Washington Leadership Academy administrator said during the XQ announcement, “It’s going to be important that [students] are creators of technology, not just consumers of it.” WLA hopes to use their $10 million to push that concept by requiring that all students take four years of computer science during their time at WLA.

10. Summit Elevate (Oakland, CA)

Summit Public Schools is a charter system that’s gained recognition for its model and its personalized learning platform. With this $10 million, Summit plans to open its Elevate school in Oakland in the fall 2018. “We need to bring all those people together to give the kids of Oakland a school they deserve,” said Brian Greenberg of Silicon Schools Fund. Summit founder Diane Tavenner also shared in a video that the money will help Summit share its personalized learning platform “farther and further.”

With around 700 applicants, what will come of all the other ideas that didn’t make the final cut? Russlynn Ali announced that throughout the year, XQ will continue to promote the best amongst those applicants—and potentially provide them with some funding. In addition to the 10 winners, three schools also received funding:

Editor's Note: This article has been updated with information regarding New Harmony and Powderhouse Studios.

Mary Jo Madda (@MJMadda) is Senior Editor at EdSurge, as well as a former STEM middle school teacher and administrator. In 2016, Mary Jo was named to the Forbes "30 Under 30" list in education.

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