New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on Friday announced the launch of the Imagine Schools NYC initiative to create 20 new schools and improve 20 others with the help of $16 million from Laurene Powell Jobs’ XQ Institute and the Robin Hood Foundation, Chalkbeat reports.
Design teams will compete for a combined $32 million in funding for the initiative, with public funds matching that of the philanthropies. Winners will be announced in May 2020 and the schools will open — or reopen — in 2021 or 2022.
The program isn’t intended to turn around struggling schools, according to the article, but is about getting communities to rally behind schools that will be "laboratories of innovation" that develop best practices for others to copy.
De Blasio’s announcement comes at a time when New York City’s schools are dealing with a range of issues that include overcrowding and segregation. The district is also struggling with school improvement efforts, which the administration canned earlier this year after the "Renewal" improvement program failed to show the promised "fast and intense" results. It was replaced by another very similar program, according to Chalkbeat.
But the city has had success with community involvement in education, as this new initiative is encouraging. Last year, the New York Daily News reported on efforts that led to higher attendance, test scores and graduation rates at schools that had taken a community school approach.
With the backing of prominent philanthropists, the “Imagine Schools NYC” initiative could yield positive results as well, though XQ schools have themselves seen a mix of success and failure. In one recent instance, a would-be Massachusetts school that had received $10 million from XQ failed before ever getting on the ground, despite having community support.
As Education Dive has reported, XQ schools have been criticized for not being different enough from traditional high schools. However, others say the effort as a whole, which has now gained even more publicity for its involvement in New York, is bringing attention to the need to reinvent the high school model.