Laurene Powell Jobs $50 Education Pledge
Laurene Powell Jobs has pledged $50 million to help reimagine how U.S. high schools operate and bring them into the 21st century. She is pictured at the Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills, California, April 29, 2013. Reuters/Gus Ruelas

Laurene Powell Jobs has pledged $50 million to help rethink America’s schools. The latest philanthropic effort by Powell Jobs, the widow of Apple Inc. co-founder Steve Jobs, is in an area where she has more than two decades of experience -- education. XQ: The Super School Project describes itself as "an open call to reimagine and design the next American high school."

Powell Jobs is looking to rethink how high schools in America work and to put every student on an equal footing. In an interview with the New York Times, Powell Jobs said today's school system is rooted in the past: “The system was created for the workforce we needed 100 years ago. Things are not working the way we want it to be working."

On its website, the XQ Project, which will fund public schools only, points out that at a time when technology and engineering jobs are seen as a way of driving growth in the U.S. economy, only half of all high schools in the U.S. offer calculus to students, while the figure for physics is only slightly higher.

According to the website, there is no limit to what ideas those seeking funding can suggest. “No one knows exactly how to build the next American high school. And that’s the point. Your team will chart their own path, which starts by determining who in your community has the skills, the passion, and the ambition to walk with you,” the website tells prospective applicants.

Over the course of the next 12 months, those looking for funding will be asked to submit ideas, develop them, produce detailed reports on finance, staffing and governance; and by the fall of 2016, the XQ Super School Project will chose five to 10 projects to fund.

The XQ project comes under the umbrella of the Emerson Collective, the group created by Powell Jobs to administer her philanthropic efforts, of which this is by far the most ambitious. Powell Jobs also funds a program called College Track, which gives students from disadvantaged backgrounds a better chance of getting into college and staying there.

While Powell Jobs will serve on the board of the XQ project, running the effort day to day will be Russlynn Ali, who comes from the U.S. Department of Education where she worked as an assistant secretary for civil rights.