Re-inventing Inner-City Schools in New York

The New York City Innovation Zone, or izone, is a radically ambitious experiment to deliver a 21st century education system for over one million students. The izone goes beyond simply building on the success of rising test scores and graduation rates. It meets the needs, motivations and strengths of each individual student so that they are properly prepared for the future, whether they enter the workplace or go on to college.

The izone works by assigning a small number of schools with ‘Lab’ status and tasking them with the job of reinventing what it means to be an inner city school. Working on behalf of the entire system these schools prototype radical models of teaching and learning. Well developed school networks are then used to ensure the entire system benefits from what the Lab schools have learned.

What these radical new models of schooling all have in common is that they provide education tailored to the needs of individual students. Lab schools are completely free to change how they teach, when and even where - some are realising the need to get out of the classroom and into the city. The traditional industrial model of schooling, where students are divided into fixed-size, fixed-age groups, is thrown out. Instead customised programmes are adopted. They are also taking advantage of new technologies. At the school level, initiatives have been launched to support online and blending learning and whole school redesign. At the market level an innovative ecosystem was created to identify learning challenges and pilot new technology solutions. At the system level, the izone has advocated for important policy reforms to enable innovation in schools.

Starting out with 25 Lab Schools working on behalf of the 1700 schools in the system, the izone now includes more than 250 schools from across the city with over 190,000 students. By 2014 there will be 400.

We helped the Department of Education formulate its innovation strategy, developed and co-facilitated the overall design and innovation process and supported and sustained the izone360 community. We also helped to build a diffusion strategy.

The izone has early indicators of success, including increased student achievement, students demonstrating increased motivation, problem formulation, research, interpretation and communication. Izone initiatives are being studied and replicated in cities and school districts across the US and internationally.

Find out more about izone by watching this video with John White architect of the izone, our very own David Albury and ARK Schools' Lucy Heller as they discuss the success of New York school district's Innovation Zone and how it transformed the region's education system. They also reflect on what the UK can learn from this inspirational example.

John White & David Albury from NESTA UK on Vimeo.

Or watch this short interview with him to find out all about the izone in a nutshell.

John White interview from NESTA UK on Vimeo.

Or visit their website.