The commercial for Project XQ. Jessica Williams, comedian, advocates for the project in an astronaut suit, representing the tech-based intentions of XQ.
On September 11, the submissions box opened for XQ: The Super School Project. The project, started and funded by Steve Jobs’ widow, Laurene Powell Jobs, hopes to reinvent the average American high school. The project is actually a competition: Self-assembled teams will research unmet student educational needs and plan a “super school” to address problems found.
On the XQ website, there are already many issues presented through statistics: 74% of high school students are not prepared for college in at least one subject. 31% are not prepared for college in any subject. Teams in the competition must design a new school with different physical or educational components that combat these statistics. The similarities and differences between the created “super school” and traditional high school are up to the teams themselves.
There are a few set requirements for completing a proposal for a “super school,” however. Once a team has identified the realities of their community’s education system, they must create a mission statement for the school, identify the learning essentials and explain how they believe the school must empower and motivate the students to learn. The next step is to tackle all of the logistics: human capital and training, budget, governance, performance management/evaluation and implementation.
According to Mr. Price, a Leesville Assistant Principal, the project’s success lies in the success of the submissions. “To me this appears to be a funding/vetting program for something similar to charter schools. While I’m not opposed to the idea of charter schools, endless data shows that they are only as successful as a) the proposed plan, and b) those carrying out the plan,” said Price.
As the competition’s prize is $50 million, it is clear that Jobs has placed a lot of faith in the hands of the future winners. The money is to be used to create the school, and the project’s board anticipates a plan that will successfully crack the code of the new innovative high school.
However, moves have already been made to redefine traditional high schools. For example, high schools with built-in trade academies serve as a valid alternative, so much so that Mr. Price believes this model would influence his own “super school”. “I think it’s empowering for students to graduate not only with a high school diploma, but also with licensure/certification in a trade. Many of the trade students could immediately enter the workforce and be competitive after graduation,” said Price.
Whether teams come from California or North Carolina, there is a common thread connecting them all: Submissions will strive to reinvent what it means to learn in America. Hopefully, as the winning plan comes to fruition, the goals of the school will as well.
The first drafts of school concepts are due November 15. The winners will be announced in August of 2016.