Published On: Wed, Apr 13th, 2016

Local Education Reformers Closer to Snagging $10 million Super School Grant

By Kevin Harris

A team of local change agents interested in redesigning how high school is taught in South Florida learned recently that their proposal cleared another hurdle and is closer to winning a $10 million grant to help them implement their idea.

“That is great news,” Keisha Harrington, a teacher in West Palm Beach and a member of the team, said on Friday upon learning they would be advancing to the third round of the project. “While this was indeed a huge feat, it has proven to be more than a challenge to create innovative high schools.

“For us, this has become a growing movement to reimagine what is possible for public education in America. It also has created a vocal hub for community voices, cutting edge ideas, and expert resources to make real change possible.”

The XQ: The Super School Project, a national competition started Sept. 11, 2015 by Laurene Powell Jobs, widow of Apple founder/CEO Steve Jobs, to reinvent the public education system, which she says is broken.

“It’s not that it [the public education system] was badly designed in 1906, it was really a breakthrough design for its time,” Powell Jobs said. “Now that we’re out of the industrial era, there’s been no substantial systemic change in the way we do high school. What we’re seeing is the manifestation of…bad design.”

By the February 2016 deadline, 700 teams from all 50 states, including Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico, submitted applications with 10,000 ideas, organizers said.

Ron Allen, founder and president of a local mentoring program and a leader in the effort, started a team and took up the challenge seven months ago.

Their proposal, which now will be included in a pool of 40 schools, will be about how they plan to organize, fund and support their new curriculum.

If they win that round, which has a May 23 submission date, then they will be part of a five-school group that will receive the $10 million grant to help them implement their idea. The five winning teams are expected to be selected in August and the grants will be awarded over the next five years.

This summer, Powell Jobs and others from the XQ Institute will travel across the country with a tricked-out old school bus, the interior of which has been rebuilt as a futuristic classroom. They plan to make 30 different stops, including at the Republican and Democratic national conventions. At each place, they will have pop-up concerts, teach-ins, exhibits and more.

The potential school, known as The Visioneering Center for Global Innovation and Communication, would address a desire for alternative high school options and better prepare students for the 21st century, Allen said.

“We want to make sure that every child in South Florida has access to great teachers,” said Allen also president of CRA Media Group and editor of the Boca Raton Tribune. “Now this does not necessarily mean that the teacher will stand in front of the classroom as we do in our postmodern information age. Thanks to technology, there are new and perhaps better ways of teaching and learning and we will reach these students.”

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