The Story Behind the XQ Super School Project

The Story Behind the XQ Super School Project

Laurene Powell Jobs

SourceBloomberg / Getty

Why you should care

Because every child deserves a quality education, regardless of income or ZIP code.  

The XQ Institute announced 10 winners yesterday — the school builders range from New York to Texas to California. In the coming months, the winners will begin building their Super School designs, from VR to developing solutions for climate change’s effects. Learn more here.

“If you walk into a high school today, you walk into the Land That Time Forgot,” philanthropist Laurene Powell Jobs told the crowd at OZY Fusion Fest this summer. Never mind the fundamental social and technological advances of the past century, or problems like climate change and housing — let alone the smartphones and electric cars of the past 10 years. These massive shifts have left most American high schools untouched.

Sounds like high school is ripe for disruption.

Cue XQ: The Super School Project, a massive idea competition that Powell Jobs has invested $100 million in — double the amount originally intended— in an effort to get teams of educators to imagine how they’d reshape high school, making it more relevant to helping students succeed in today’s world. Yesterday, the XQ Institute announced 10 winning high schools across the country.

These 10 “Super Schools” will now start building their high schools of the futures. What does that mean? Think augmented and virtual reality and, in the future, even holograms. Others will double down on personalized learning. One high school will make a river system into a outdoor library. And another, in Venice, LA, will create a floating classroom where students partner with teachers and scientists to solve issues like coastal erosion and other effects of climate change.

It almost makes you want to go back to high school all over again.

Along with musician will.i.am and Darren Walker, of the Ford Foundation, Powell Jobs joined OZY Fusion Fest to talk about the future of education and education’s role in reducing inequality. Powell Jobs, a philanthropist and founder of Emerson Collective, has been deeply involved in improving American public education for decades, including her support of nonprofit College Track. College Track is an after-school program focused on academics and leadership that she co-founded with OZY’s CEO and co-founder Carlos Watson (Powell Jobs also supports OZY Media).

Embedded in the educational ecosystem of nine communities, College Track works with low-income students from the end of eighth grade onward to help them reach college, and beyond: About a quarter of College Track graduates have gone on to acquire advanced degrees. The program focuses on project-based learning and empowering students with information so that they can pursue their own interests. “It’s not all that mysterious, frankly,” Powell Jobs says. “If you give people the information they’ve been so desperately desiring, they will take it and run with it.”

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