How Laurene Powell Jobs plans to reinvent U.S. education

“Laurene Powell Jobs is using the vast fortune left to her by her husband, late Apple founder and CEO Steve Jobs, to tackle the one institution that has changed little in more than a century: education,” Leena Rao for Fortune.

“‘It’s not that our high school system was not designed well, but that it was designed in 1906 when the country was just out of the industrial era,’ Powell said on Monday at conference for female entrepreneurs in San Francisco hosted by tech incubator Y Combinator,” Steinberg writes. “Powell Jobs created a non-profit organization, the Emerson Collective, to invest in education and change how it operates. One of its spinoffs is XQ: the Super School project, a national competition that is open to artists, teachers, musicians, and technologists to reinvent how high school students learn.”

“Over the past few months, Powell Jobs and her team have received more than 10,000 applications. On Monday, she and the CEO of the project, former U.S. Education Department official, Russlynn Ali, said they would eventually narrow them down to 5 ideas. Powell has committed $50 million to implement the five plans,” Steinberg writes. “Powell Jobs, who was wearing an Apple Watch, said that the number of applications for the competition exceeded her and Ali’s expectations. Later this week, Powell Jobs and Ali will announce the ideas chosen for the next round of vetting.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: As we wrote over a decade ago:

Teachers who don’t want to learn new things should be fired immediately. Sorry for the burst of truth, NEA… The NEA has been around since 1857; supposedly “working to provide great public schools.” However, U.S. public schools are generally woeful. Is it the National Education Association or the National Education Anchor? Perhaps it’s time America tried something else, something that’s actually effective and improves the nation’s public school system? — MacDailyNews Take, March 29, 2005

Laurene Powell Jobs funds buyout of News Corp’s Amplify education company – November 23, 2015
Laurene Powell Jobs aligns against teachers unions; backs education reform, charter schools, vouchers – May 26, 2012
Laurene Powell Jobs helps change lives, too – October 7, 2011
A clearer picture of Steve Jobs’ thoughts on public education and teacher unions – February 21, 2007
Steve Jobs & Rush Limbaugh agree: U.S. public schools are ‘unionized in the worst possible way’ – February 20, 2007
Apple CEO blasts teacher unions, says US schools are ‘unionized in the worst possible way’ – February 16, 2007


  1. “Laurene and I have a wonderful family together. I’ve been very lucky, through random happenstance I just happened to sit next to this wonderful woman, I looked to my right, and there was a beautiful girl there, so we started chatting while I was waiting to be introduced. Afterwards I was in the parking lot with the key in the car, and I thought to myself, ‘If this is my last night on earth, would I rather spend it at a business meeting or with this woman?’ I ran across the parking lot and asked her, “Excuse me, wasn’t there something about a raffle you won, that I’m supposed to take you to dinner?” , She said yes, we walked into town and we’ve been together ever since. And I fell in love with this amazing woman who became my wife.”

    “Steve Jobs Bio: The Unauthorized Autobiography.”

  2. I have a lot of respect for Apple and Ms Jobs. But I was not aware she was an education or teaching expert. I’d like to see research behind any of the approaches promoted by her foundation. Also, MacDailyNews should stop bashing teachers.

    1. Meh. Most of the people in K-12 don’t seem to be experts either. I support effective use of technology, new ideas, and anything that turns teaching into a meritocracy rather than a guaranteed job cesspool of mediocrity, starting with getting rid of unions and paying good teachers what they are worth. If one good teacher can train 50 budding engineers in math and science, that teacher deserves to make at least what 1 engineer makes. ( Though many in Silicon valley do. )

      1. Actually most of the teachers are pretty much experts. New teachers in Cali have to have the equivalent of a masters, and even then the drop-out/burn-out rate is pretty high.
        Also, most studies show that teachers’ Unions are a net positive in that they lead to better academic achievement for the students.

    2. So don’t “bash” the folks that are at the center of the issue? Teachers control the teachers unions. Teachers are one of the largest lobbying groups in the US, they have MASSIVE influence on policy and laws effecting education. They are the “experts” and we the people have done what they have said for more than a hundred years. Teachers are at the center of the system, they ARE the union, THEY are responsible for at least 80% of our education problems. I know lets blame the parents they should work harder, pay more taxes, AND teach the kids everything they should know. I’ll stop bashing teachers when parents get the freedom to take their tax dollars with their kid and send them to the school they select NOT the one they get “assigned” because of where they live. Obviously I moved to get my kids to a good schools and sent one to a private school on my own dime one is a successful college graduate the other is in College right now. Not everyone has the chance to do what I HAD to do for my children to have a good education.

  3. The only purpose now for the NEA is to enrich and empower themselves, they have absolutely zero concern about the students and their education, none..

  4. My wife is a Special Education teacher. Please tell me how this is going to help special education students. Answer: Nothing.

    It’s all nice to say that education should be changed/improved, but the reality is that people that know NOTHING about teaching students are the ones setting the agenda and curriculum for high school students. Teachers have NO CHOICE but to follow along with these F***ING pencil pushers. If they don’t follow what these idiots spew out they get fired. Not fair to hard-working teachers!

    The stupid thing is that most special education kids can’t write standardized tests, yet most states require them to do so. This is a waste of money and teachers’ time that could be better utilized.

    1. Give the lady a bit of credit. You have no idea what areas will be targeted – you are just making uninformed assumptions. Special education might be included in the initial five ideas that she selects.

      There are all kinds of pencil pushers…some of them are wonderful and some are just the opposite. Don’t be a hater.

  5. I’m interested to see how her “superschool” project plays out . . . I learned how to play piano from the neighbor down the street, and I was introduced to woodworking from a craftsman in our town — no “school” necessary . . . The sort of factory high schools we have seen since WWII were designed as places to bring together curriculum (books) and experts (teachers) in one location . . . Once online curriculum and online experts exceed what you can get at a local school, there will be a tipping point at which schools will need to make difficult choices. For example, rather than hiring a “physics teacher”, a school might enroll students in an online physics class, with a local science teacher serving as a mentor . . . We’ve already seen the move in topics such as computer programming. Any 15 year old computer nerd will tell you that they learned programming online, not from a high school teacher . . . in the next 10 years, as online tools improve, most education will move online. We will see how local school districts adapt to this change.

    1. “Any 15 year old computer nerd will tell you that they learned programming online, not from a high school teacher”

      Yes, the real world,especially in computer technology, moves at a much faster pace than education. I work on a staff position in a high school, and what we are teaching (not me personally) is a good 5 years behind what is happening on the outside.

      In my other life, I do HTML5 motion graphics for web, etc. and the computer teachers are amazed: “how could you be self-taught?” or “if you cant do it in some Adobe product, it can’t or shouldnt be done because everyone uses some Adobe product”. Well, I don’t because I buy and pay for it myself, and its not on some approved list.

      Education today is a collection bureauracies managed by bureacracies, supervised by yet more bureacracies, and that means they will be perpetually 5 or more years behind the real world. It’s the nature of the beast.

      And my work can’t be done on an IPad.

    1. Teachers in the “hood” babysitting future inmates, welfare mothers, and other social degenerates. Obviously things have not changed for the better since I graduated in 1975.

  6. Today’s lesson will be on how racism, sexism, gender inequality, pay inequality, etc., are keeping you from getting a quality education. Please connect your shiny taxpayer provided MacBooks to the campus wifi…

  7. A great many things need changed to fix the US education system. Faculty is one of them, but is probably the least cause of the current problems.
    Administration costs have skyrocketed because each district is its own little business competing for tax dollars, so a high-priced shyster is needed as Superintendent just to let the system survive, not improve. To satisfy administrative egos, each MUST have a bunch of underlings, as well.
    Curriculum has not advanced since the removal of Latin and Greek as irrelevant; today, a great deal taught is insignificant while more important things are ignored. Cursive isn’t terribly necessary, and I know very few who have solved quadratic equations after leaving school. Memorizing exact dates in history was ALWAYS pointless; the important thing is what caused the events, what other events precipitated them.
    Technology could be used to allow each student to proceed at his own pace rather than forcing the entire class to limp at the pace of the slowest student. When teaching handwriting or mathematics, the technology can monitor EVERY pen stroke, every mathematical operation, rather than one teacher trying to see what 35 kids are doing. It could contain every book, video or animation the student would need. It could make education FUN rather than a chore.
    Philosophy must change. It cannot be “teacher, make this child knowledgable.” We cannot rely on parents because many just don’t care. Each child needs to be taught by ALL of us to be the best he can be; however, we must comprehend every individual is not capable of the same achievements. “No child left behind” should never have been interpreted as “no child should exceed another.”

  8. As a veteran teacher, I applaud Mrs. Jobs’ efforts. I also agree that the NEA is not particularly effective.

    Those things said, my 21 years of experience have led me to some pretty concrete conclusions. It’s not that no one has any idea how to fix the education system, it’s that doing so is a daunting proposition.

    Here’s how you do it:

    1. Drastically increase spending. Most of the problems with public education have little to do with techniques or technology or anything else that happens inside a school. The students coming into the system are simply less mature, less emotionally ready, and less disciplined than ever before in history. If we want our public education system to compensate for all these things, and to, in essence, “raise” America’s kids, then it’s going to take far, far more staff and far, far more resources.


    2. Demand far more of parents and families. Not in terms of financial support, but in terms of teaching the initial socialization, basic family skills, and baseline level or respect for adults that is required to any real instruction to happen. Students and parents have always faced poverty, racism, inequities, etc. (often worse in the past than now), but there was always a minimum expectation for parental responsibility. That minimum expectation no longer exists in many public schools.

    So, pick your poison. Both are incredibly challenging.

    1. “The students coming into the system are simply less mature, less emotionally ready, and less disciplined than ever before in history.”

      ABSOLUTELY true. I work on a high school staff in a behavioral area, admittedly I only deal with about 10% of the school population, but within that group, the the majority of the parents either don’t care, or when they are made aware of the issue with the student, will support them, whatever the behavior, up to and including assault, or breaking a $1200 reinforced glass window just to see what happens. “You need to claim it on the school insurance policy” Intentional vandalism? Really?

      Drastically increase spending? Thats very often a mis-applied bandaid. I could go on and on about that, too busy to do so.

  9. Not a fan of the current mess public and private education is in these United States, but it not necessarily the teachers. There are a lot of very good people who hang in an effed up system trying to teach the kids that want to learn despite all the bullshit.

    I know a particular woman who despite an Ivy League Degree and an endless list of other options and no school debt, chooses to teach literature in a disadvantaged High School. She is not in the AFT or the NEA and she came to a place where she had no connections and took a thankless job in a district most Teachers would avoid because she wants to teach and help kids who most have written off or do not give a damn about. The fact is that there are many more like her.

    Most public school teachers are put in a straightjacket as to what they can teach, what methods they use, how much time they can devote to a subject or concept and are commonly given minimal resources to accomplish their tasks. They are also poorly paid for the training they are required to have and maintain.

    The rules for the schools are made by the citizen voters and their elected officials. if our schools are fucked up it is because we do not demand that they be competently run. Charter Schools are no cure all for the problems public education faces and the numbers show that they perform no better than public schools teaching similar students.

    I have no respect for the NEA or AFT despite not being hostile to the concept of unions. They are way too political for unions representing public employees.

  10. Um. “Precious snowflakes and helicopter parents.” Teachers have only a marginal effect on learning. Until schools get to select the “raw material inputs” stop expecting miracles at the output.

  11. I think technology can help, but we got iPads in our school when I was in high school, and people just went on messaging sites or emailed and stuff, and some kids even brought their own devices, me included, and used them and texted all we want. Yes, I passed, because I only texted at the beginning and ending of class mostly, when things were starting up or shutting down, but I know a few kids who put games on their iPads and played them in class. So yeah, it all will depend on what kind of students are being taught, and how the teachers can adapt. I don’t think, though, that most of the older teachers will be able to adapt, so they’ll ask that devices be left somewhere unreachable or something, which is what one of my teachers did, but it was anatomy class, and we had books and an actual model skeleton, so it wasn’t too bad.

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