Recap of this past year
It all started with one question: How would you rethink high school?
In September 2015, our friends at the XQ Institute issued the Super School Challenge, an unprecedented national competition asking America to rethink the century-old public high school system to better prepare our students for the future.
One year (and a cross-country bus tour) later, more than 40,000 people signed up to join the movement and hundreds of teams submitted final applications of their designs. Teams hunkered down to learn, design, and develop their ideas for real-world implementation. Each proposal was remarkably creative and grounded in design research and principles of education. The rigor of the application process will allow teams to forge ahead with their dreams of redesigning high school even if they were not one of the ten selected Super Schools.
Now, it’s time to reveal the Super Schools.
The Super Cohort
The Super Schools, the ten school proposals chosen to be created in partnership with XQ, are a diverse cohort whose concepts define the domains of XQ’s focus: breakthrough use of time, use of physical space, equity, rigor and standards, assessment and accountability, community porousness, and use of technology. Every Super School is different. But together, they confront a wide range challenges and leave few opportunities unmet.
Brooklyn, New York
Despite living in the center of Brooklyn’s tech triangle, local students too often grow up isolated from the industries and opportunities surrounding them. Brooklyn Laboratory will break down these barriers, partnering with industry, universities, the arts and more to build bridges to connect students and their family members with the new economy. Scholars will learn at the highest levels of rigor with personalized and integrated student supports. What’s more, Brooklyn Lab will share its lessons learned — and its commitment to the local community — through a rigorous teacher training model and residency program.
Design Lab High School understands the global challenges facing its students, but sees absolutely no limit to the solutions students can design to meet those challenges. With design thinking baked into its DNA, this Super School will be a school based on an R+D framework that continually learns, builds and improves, while encouraging its students to do the same. Whether working on prototypes, podcasts, or virtual museum exhibits, an academically rigorous loop of learning will prepare its students, including many first generation college-goers, for the challenges ahead.
Furr High School, now led by the oldest principal in the U.S., will activate learning through a project and place based model grounded in the rigors of environmental and nutritional sciences. Students and teachers will pair with their university counterparts to become “green ambassadors” in important environmental sustainability research projects. This large public high school will transform its culture with restorative justice, connect the dots between students and community, and combine Socratic seminars, university and business partnerships and wrap-around services. In the evening, it will also be home to a cultural center open to the entire community of industrial east Houston.
Grand Rapids, Michigan
At Grand Rapids Public Museum High School, the museum is the school and the community is the classroom. Here, the museum’s 250,000 cultural and historical artifacts will form the basis of its rigorous curriculum, design thinking approach, and placed-based learning environment — with one initiative designed to become the largest river restoration project in the United States. Co-taught by field experts, scientists, and researchers, this Super School will show how to leverage community resources and activate students to become ecological and economic problem solvers on the road to college and career readiness.
New Harmony High’s unique model around environmental engagement and physical space is based on the notion that learning environments are found within the community and surrounding ecosystem. The school’s central hub will be located on a moored barge, additional classroom and lab spaces will be housed around the Mississippi Delta, and a network of internship sites will be located in professional offices, scientific laboratories, fishing vessels, and other content rich venues in the Gulf Coast region.
While co-conducting research on coastal erosion with experts and teachers on their learning barge or exploring community displacement and migration, students at New Harmony High will study and seek solutions to some of the most complex problems that face their community and all communities impacted by rising sea levels and devastating environmental forces. New Harmony will put rigorous college and career ready coursework in context through real-life experiences, creating learning that can resonate and be replicated on a global scale.
Los Angeles, California
RISE High was designed with the students it is intended for: those impacted by homelessness, housing instability, and the foster care system. The ~15,000 homeless youth living within the Los Angeles Unified School District are 87% more likely to drop out of high school, in large part because they cannot prioritize academics while their basic physical and socio-emotional needs are not being met. Rather than housing all learning experiences in one central, traditional school building, RISE will exist in multiple locations across the city and be colocated with service providers, including a mobile resource center that can drive to students, to ensure that students have a variety of access points to a consistent school model and network of social support. In addition, the RISE App will enable 24/7 access to academic support and comprehensive support services. Project and competency-based learning will be implemented in order to provide a rigorous and engaging curriculum where students are rewarded by what they know rather than seat time invested.
Inspired by centers for innovation such as Pixar, Xerox PARC, and the MIT Media Lab, Powderhouse Studios will feel more like a research lab or design studio than a school. At Powderhouse Studios, students will collaborate with local scientists, artists and researchers in the hopes of transforming from passive recipients of information into independent investigators of the world around them. Breaking down the limitations of grades, classrooms, and subjects, this Super School enables students to work together year-round, in the classroom and beyond. Every student will be supported by an academic and support team, comprised of a social worker, a curriculum developer and a personal project manager to ensure individualized success. This Super School’s role will be like the producer of a film: to wrangle the ingredients needed to help young people realize dream projects with richness and rigor.
Summit Public Schools currently operates ten high-performing college prep middle and high schools in California and Washington. For their XQ proposal, Summit Public Schools joined forces with California College of the Arts (CCA), Gensler, Silicon Schools Fund, Oakland Unified School District, and the Office of Mayor Libby Schaaf to launch Summit Elevate in Oakland.
At Summit Elevate, students will be able to visualize career opportunities with an eye towards identifying trends and forging a path for themselves, clarifying the connection between what they learn in school and their future. Students will truly be in the driver’s seat of their own education, whether it’s selecting their own network of personal advisors and mentors from education and industry, or using the Summit Personalized Learning Platform to prepare for college, career, and life.
Serving over 2,600 students, Vista Challenge High will demonstrate how rigorous personalized learning is possible at scale. Built on a foundation of student strengths, progress will be monitored through a Learning Positioning System that gives each student and their teachers a real-time roadmap of their academic and social growth. Working in immersive, technology-rich environments and guided by Challenge Based Learning aligned with the UN Sustainability Goals, Vista students will become drivers of their own learning as they apply their knowledge to solve local and global problems.
Washington, District of Columbia
A brand new charter high school in the heart of Washington, D.C., Washington Leadership Academy serves disenfranchised students from across the District. Using technology to leverage the power of teachers, WLA pushes the boundaries of tech in the school setting. Students program arduinos in the MakerSpace, visit foreign countries and historical times in virtual reality, learn from real-world professionals from the on-demand workforce across the globe, and will, eventually, experience holographic instruction. Rather than merely consumers, WLA students are creators of the technologies of the future. WLA is committed to open sourcing its methods, tools, curriculum and model so that students across the country and world can benefit from this Super School.
Learn more and follow the teams’ progress at http://xqsuperschool.org