The state of Rhode Island and XQ, a nonprofit formed and supported by mega-philanthropist Laurene Powell Jobs, the widow of Apple cofounder Jobs, have partnered in an effort to transform the state's public high schools. Their bond brings five from the state's schools grants of $500,000 and XQ's ongoing technical assistance. In exchange, this gives the nonprofit an opportunity to implement its method of \”reimagine senior high school education in the United States\” and \”transform high school so every student succeeds.\”
In a statement announcing the agreement, Governor Gina Raimondo said,
Rhode Island schools are doing some truly exciting work, with a record number of students benefiting from advanced coursework, early college, and hands-on learning opportunities. XQ chose to do its first-ever statewide partnership with Rhode Island simply because they see tremendous potential here, with their support and experience, we will be able to scale up best practices to ensure that we are able to make senior high school more challenging, engaging, and relevant than ever before.
XQ was launched in 2021 as an extension of Jobs' Emerson Project LLC to reply to a conclusion Jobs and her team had reached about the nation's secondary schools: High schools are seen as failing their students, as measured by standardized test scores, simply because they \”haven't changed significantly-while the earth has. Our education product is still nested in that century-old idea while students are shepherded through similar courses, preparing them for some time for many years passed.\”
Led with a former person in the Obama-era Department of Education team, XQ began by issuing an open call to \”rethink and redesign the American senior high school.\”
More than 10,000 people from all 50 states answered our call with unique ideas for innovative, student-centered high schools that prepare young people for tomorrow's world. XQ has pledged more than $130 million to produce Super Schools that make those visions a real possibility.
Subsequently, XQ began making grants to individual schools to support their efforts to become model \”super-schools.\” Their bond with RI is XQ's first attempt at transforming an entire state's education system.
While seemingly collaborative, XQ's approach is based upon seeking solutions for a problem they have defined toward a finish result they also have defined. But what if their premises are wrong? Jack Schneider, assistant professor of education in the University of Massachusetts Lowell, and the director of research for that Massachusetts Consortium for Innovative Education Assessment raised this concern in comments reported through the Washington Post back in 2021.
\”Americans still offer the broader reason for education,\” Schneider said. \”That's why students have always done much more in school than train for work.-Our students don't spend their days building cars and designing phones. Instead, they're developing their full human potential, across a wide range of activities.\”
And America's schools have changed significantly in the last decades. As Schneider noted, \”Encouraging such tinkering is really a fine utilization of philanthropic dollars. But that isn't what the XQ project is rolling out. Instead, it is publicizing a historically uninformed message that today's technologies demand something new of us as people which our unchanging high schools are failing at the task.\”
XQ's resources let it proceed on this shaky foundation. Accountable only to their very own judgment, XQ can dangle large grants as inducements for individual schools, as well as entire states, to follow their game plan. While they may strike gold, they might also strike out.
NPQ has followed how other mega-philanthropists used their great wealth to impose their desired approaches toward fixing the nation's education systems. An excellent example are available in the Gates Foundation's several efforts to resolve the nation's educational problems. Each was well financed, each proved unsuccessful, and every left the funder unscathed-but not so the colleges and students who had been their guinea pigs.
Hopefully, XQ's work will prove more fruitful and also the schools in RI will see just the benefit of this partnership. But with control kept by the funder, will support visit those solutions that schools may know they need that do not fit XQ's meaning of the issue? Or will the answers be shaped through the power Big Money? The test of how well a nonprofit like XQ meets its obligation to the public good lies in the way they will face that challenge.