R.I. to rethink high school instruction in partnership with education nonprofit (ProJo)

PROVIDENCE — Gov. Gina Raimondo is partnering with a highly regarded nonprofit education organization to help Rhode Island public schools reimagine what high school could look like.

“In the past, XQ has only worked with individual schools,” said state Education Department spokeswoman Meg Geoghegan. “One of the reasons they were attracted to Rhode Island is because of the things in our toolkit: dual enrollment, advanced coursework, career education and work-based learning. One of the questions is, how are we going to scale this up so all students are getting access to these programs?”

Any high school can apply for the grants. Five schools will be selected to receive up to $500,000 each from XQ to redesign their schools. The money can be used to implement the new high school design, which might call for changing the class schedule, using technology in new ways or expanding career and technical opportunities.

XQ was founded in 2015 by Laurene Powell Jobs, widow of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, and Russlynn Ali, the former assistant secretary for civil rights at the U.S. Department of Education under Secretary Arne Duncan.

The private nonprofit launched with a national competition that invited high schools around the country to rethink the way they teach high school. The organization asked schools to think big: Does the school day need to look different? Should students be engaged in real-life work? Can students drive their own learning using technology?

About 10,000 people from every state responded with fresh ideas for high schools. Since then, XQ has supported those schools by offering free online tools and resources to inspire those efforts.

“Rhode Island schools are doing some truly exciting work, with a record number of students taking advantage of advanced coursework, early college, and hands-on learning opportunities,” Raimondo said in a statement. “XQ chose to do its first-ever statewide partnership with Rhode Island because they see tremendous potential here, and with their support and experience, we will be able to scale up best practices so that we can make high school more challenging, engaging, and relevant than ever before.”

“The industrial model of education, where we talk at students sitting neatly in rows, is disconnected from the realities of a 21st-century economy,” said education Commissioner Ken Wagner. “There is really good work happening in our high schools, and with XQ’s help, we can think bigger and move faster.”

The process will begin in the spring with a series of regional sessions where schools can learn about how to participate in the statewide challenge. School design teams will be asked to invite students, families and community groups to offer their thoughts on the redesign.

Meg Geoghegan