Group re-imagines the school system


The XQ Super School Bus is parked outside the Main Library on Wednesday. XQ challenges America to rethink its school system. (The Daily Iowan/Lily Smith)

By Emi Bendler 

[email protected]

What appeared to be just a food-truck cluster on Wednesday turned out to be a gathering to raise awareness about America’s school system.
The XQ Project, an organization launched in 2015, set up an event between the Main Library and the Adler Journalism Building to showcase the group with the help of local artists and vendors.

Sacha Ostern, XQ’s deputy campaign head, pointed out that while there have been many changes in things such as technology and transportation, the school system hasn’t changed much since the early 1900s.

“The system we have really isn’t that different,” he said. “When you think about it, we’ve gone from the Model T to the Tesla, from the switchboard to the iPhone. But high school has stayed the same.”

The group brings along a transformed school bus that displays the program’s

People buy lunch at food trucks outside Adler Journalism Building on Wednesday, April 12, 2017. (The Daily Iowan/Lily Smith)

findings. It shows how American kindergarten through eighth grade and highschool systems compare with other countries’ school systems.

Ostern said that while U.S. kindergarten through eighth-grade system stacks up against others, U.S. high schools slip in the ranks.

To solve this problem, the XQ Institute turns to the communities for a solution.

“This is the first organization that hasn’t been prescriptive,” Ostern said. By this, he means that the communities get to choose ways to fix their systems based on what their schools need the most.

He said that concepts and solutions can vary drastically, even among schools in the same cities.

For example, Venice, Louisiana, was affected by both the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010 and Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Officials decided to have their school on a barge to collect data about their coast and report their findings.

Students and residents of Grand Rapids, Michigan, came up with the idea of having their school in a museum. This way, they would be able to focus and learn more about history, budgeting, and marketing. They also would be able to use the museums resources to open new exhibits.

Ostern also noted a school called Rise in Los Angeles. The school focuses on homeless and troubled youth and getting them the education they deserve.

Schools around the country that came up with the best solutions got rewarded. XQ has rewarded 10 schools with $10 million.

They also recognized three runner-up schools, one of which was in Cedar Rapids. It received $1 million for their work.

The organization invited food trucks to give free food to students who went through the school bus.

Local artist Lily Allen-Duenas also helped the movement by creating an interactive work to display at the gathering.

She said she believes in empowering youth and having their voices be heard, which is part of what XQ does.

“When they said, ‘We’re about taking the mold of education and shattering it and re-innovating it so that every voice can matter, every student feels like they have a place,’ I was so interested in being a part of that process,” she said.

[Correction: In the April 13 article “Group re-imagines the school system,” The Daily Iowan incorrectly quoted Sacha Ostern as saying, “When you think about it, we’ve gone from the Model T to the switchboard to the iPhone.” Instead, Ostern’s full quote was actually, “When you think about it, we’ve gone from the Model T to the Tesla, from the switchboard to the iPhone. But high school has stayed the same.” A corrected version has been posted. The DI regrets the error.]

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