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The Power of "What If?" - How XQ is Rethinking High School

By: Monica Shah on September 12th, 2017

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The Power of "What If?" - How XQ is Rethinking High School

Personalized Learning  |  School Districts  |  Innovative Leadership

On Friday night America’s top TV networks put aside the battle for ratings, when all four aired the XQ Super School Live special to address the question: What needs to change with American high schools? Cameos from an all-star lineup of celebrities, and cover songs from our favorite high school movies were an added bonus to the program’s key message. Four of the 18 (and counting) XQ Super Schools were featured and given the opportunity to share their powerful stories on what happens when we ask the question, “What if?”

What if students learned while solving challenging community problems?

The Furr Institute for Innovative Thinking in Houston, Texas, is being fully redesigned by their teachers and students. They are focusing on finding the passion of each individual student and connecting student learning and the community that surrounds them. In turn, they have re-engaged their students in projects that allow them to teach science lessons to elementary students, work in an environmental science lab at Texas A&M, and transform their own community from a food desert to a food forest. Since rethinking their school design to serve the needs of their community, they have seen an increased graduation rate from 50% to 90%.

What if schools made sure all students, especially homeless and foster youth, got to college?

In any school, a student’s life outside of the classroom has a significant impact on their learning inside the classroom. DaVinci Rise High in Los Angeles, California, understands this and is rethinking how they can best understand and support the needs of students who encounter various challenges outside of school. Flexible pacing, strong mentorship, and a mobile learning center allows students at DaVinci High to engage in learning outside of a traditional school setting that was never designed for the challenges that life has presented them.

What if schools unlocked the power of technology to transform education?

In Washington, DC, we meet Jerome Foster who found his passion for virtual reality at Washington Leadership Academy where students not only use technology, they make it. As a 9th grader, he was given the opportunity to use his passion as a vehicle for authentic learning. Given the skills and confidence to do so by his teachers at WLA, Jerome competed in the World Championship of Entrepreneurship. His prize? Third place...and the drive to become a lifelong learner.

What if school was a bridge to the community?

Iowa Big in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, works with three school districts to provide students with an opportunity to solve real world problems outside of their traditional classroom setting. Here, the teachers are facilitators who evaluate and guide students, but the ideas that drive learning are generated by the students themselves. They are encouraged to connect with their community members and to solve any problem in the context of their own surroundings. In doing so, they’ve dissolved the question most commonly heard amongst students, “When will I ever use this?”

How can I start rethinking school?

We at Education Elements have partnered with districts across the country to address the same question the XQ Project presents - what if? What if we transformed the one hundred year old traditional high school model into an instructional model that allows for more targeted instruction in small groups, quality peer-to-peer collaboration, flexibility in pace and path, and the use of creativity? We take school and district leaders through a design thinking process to understand the needs of their students and to redesign classrooms that thrive on a culture of innovation and empower students to take ownership of their learning.

It is time to join the movement - don’t let good enough be good enough. How will you #RethinkHighSchool?


About Monica Shah

Monica is a Design Principal at Education Elements. A former teacher from Chicago, her personalized learning journey began by taking risks with her own students in helping them find their own path. She is excited to continue this work beyond the walls of her own classroom, working with districts across the country. In her free time, Monica enjoys trying out new recipes or planning her next big trip.

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