On October 7, the Harvard Graduate School of Education hosted the local launch of the XQ: The Super School Project initiative — a national campaign, backed by Laurene Powell Jobs, president of the Emerson Collective (EC), calling on educators, students, and sector leaders to design a new high school model. At the event held at Gutman Conference Center, Dean James Ryan welcomed Jobs, EC Managing Director Russlynn Ali, Harvard Professor Henry Skip Gates Jr., Harvard University President Drew Faust, and an additional 100 invited guests to discuss the project and the motivation behind it.
XQ: The Super School Project, which Ryan called timely, bold, and creative, is open to anyone interested in reimagining high school and coming up with a plan with the potential for $50 million to support and create it.
The significant need for change in American high schools wouldn’t surprise anyone in the room, said Ali, citing the United States’ ranking of 27 out of 34 developed countries in math performance. Noting how little has changed in high schools in the past 30 years. Ali described American high schools as “frozen in time.”
Gates called the need to remodel American high schools “most urgent,” emphasizing the need for students to once again feel safe to dream about their futures.
The XQ Super School Project is not an effort to look at the failures of education reform, said Ali, but to help motivate students, educators, and thinkers to reimagine what American high school could be. Existing problems suggested by the event’s audience, such as the need for more individualized learning, improvements in sex education, and a better system for reincorporating incarcerated youth back into the system and society, could be addressed in submissions.
Over the next month, the XQ Super School Project initiative will travel throughout the country to encourage teams to submit plans for their dream high schools. Then, next fall, judges will pick several winning teams, who will be provided expert support and a fund of $50 million that will support at least five schools over the next five years.