“Teachers at Washington Leadership Academy, one of the city’s newest charter high schools, long ago decided all students would learn chemistry. But they couldn’t afford a fully outfitted chemistry lab, let alone the services of a qualified teacher,” Greg Toppo reports for USA Today. “So they’re hiring developers to build a scientifically accurate, virtual-reality chemistry lab that someday, they hope, other schools can log on to — for free. They’ll develop it, test it out and then give it away.”

“The project is one of a handful being underwritten by an audacious new philanthropic effort led by Laurene Powell Jobs, the widow of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs. Her so-called XQ: The Super School Project is placing $10 million bets on 10 high schools over the next five years that she and others hope will spark experimentation nationwide,” Toppo reports. “Powell Jobs will be in Washington on Wednesday evening to unveil the 10 lucky schools funded through her charity, The Emerson Collective.”

“In an interview with USA Today, Powell Jobs said she was ‘humbled’ by the response to the competition, which received about 700 applications. She and others spent a year working with 348 teams in 98 districts nationwide, many of which will push to complete their work even without XQ’s funding, she and others said,” Toppo reports. “Powell Jobs said she hopes the 10 schools, as well as others that XQ plans to honor Wednesday, will serve as new models for next-generation U.S. high schools. ‘There’s enormous capacity for creativity within districts,’ she said.”

“The American high school could surely use a makeover. According to recent federal statistics, while U.S. high school graduation rates hit an all-time high in 2014 at 82.3%, the gap between African-American and white students remains stubbornly high at nearly 15 percentage points,” Toppo reports. “While 87.2% of white students graduate on time, only 72.5% of black students do the same. Among students for whom English is not their first language, the rate is even lower, at 62.6%.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Hopefully Jobs’ program begets improvements as the U.S. public education system could certainly use all the improvement it can get!

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