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$100 Million Awarded in Contest to Rethink U.S. High Schools

An organization announced on Wednesday that it had chosen the winners of $10 million grants in a competition to rethink the American high school.

The organization — the XQ Institute, which is backed by Laurene Powell Jobs — is funding 10 schools, for a total of $100 million.

One of the winners, the Somerville Steam Academy in Somerville, Mass., will operate without standard class periods and without separating students by age.

Rise High in Los Angeles will be designed for students who are homeless or in foster care. It will share locations around the city with service providers, like medical or mental health centers, and will have a mobile classroom to teach or tutor students wherever they are.

And in New York City, at the Brooklyn Laboratory Charter High School, the school day will last from 8:30 a.m. to 5:15 p.m.

“Each of these represent schools that don’t exist today,” said Russlynn H. Ali, chief executive of the XQ Institute and a former assistant secretary for civil rights at the federal Education Department.

Ms. Powell Jobs, chairwoman of the XQ Institute’s board of directors, was the wife of Steven P. Jobs, the Apple co-founder who died five years ago next month.

The Super School Project was announced a year ago by the Emerson Collective, the organization Ms. Powell Jobs uses to make philanthropic investments. The goal was to offer $50 million to schools that offered new approaches to education. Ms. Ali said American high schools had “stayed the same for 100 years” and were badly in need of new ideas and paradigms.

Ms. Ali said the organization received far more applications than it expected, so it decided to give more $10 million prizes.

The winners are a mix of charter and district public schools, in small towns and large cities. Most of them are new, but some are existing schools that are being reimagined.

“They are using time in very flexible ways,” Ms. Ali said. “They are ensuring personalized learning using tech and time, embedded with rigor. That’s what each of them have in common. “

This is not the first time tech money has been funneled into education. In 2010, the Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg donated $100 million to revamp the badly struggling school system in Newark, hoping to make it a model for the nation. The money, however, has not had a transformative effect.

Ms. Ali said the Super School initiative is not just a financial investment but will also be a partnership between XQ and the chosen schools.

“Whether it’s bringing in resources and expertise from across the field, we’ll figure it out together,” she said. “Money alone isn’t good enough. It never is.”

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