In 2010, the NYCDOE launched the Innovation Zone (iZone), a dedicated Office of Innovation that would support schools in personalizing learning to accelerate college and career readiness among our students. Started with 81 schools, the iZone now includes nearly 300 schools from across the city.

The Way It Works

iZone Works on Three Levels to Promote An Innovation Ecosystem

  • Supporting Innovation in Schools
  • Driving The Market
  • Fostering Systemic Innovation

Since its inception, the iZone has launched a number of tools and strategies to promote innovation at three distinct but integrated levels: school, market, and system. At the school level we create initiatives to support personalized learning methods, such as blended learning; at the market level, we launch challenges and hackathons to the edtech community to develop software solutions that meet real learning needs; at the system level, we advocate for important policy reforms to enable innovation in our schools.

The iZone has made significant progress over the past three years, making great strides in achieving aims at the school, market and system levels. The programs we are piloting empower teachers, administrators, students and parents with cutting-edge resources and strategies for personalization, while allowing for flexibility to tailor programs to best meet individual student needs.

Some of the tools and strategies piloted include:

  1. Mastery-based learning, to change the way students evidence their mastery of content knowledge and skills, while allowing students to move at their own pace.
  2. Innovation Challenges, to engage schools in the process of designing, testing and scaling innovative solutions to real problems in schools, which can result in a final product that radically improves the learning lives of students.
  3.  Blended Learning Institute (BLI), to prepare teachers to lead 21st century classrooms by supporting them in the development of a blended model that best meets the needs, strengths and motivations of each student.
  4. Gap App Challenge, inviting developers to submit applications, solution-oriented games and programs to enhance math classroom experience through teaching, learning and engagement.
  5. School of One, which uses daily skill assessments to monitor student progress, and algorithm-assisted assignments that adapt a personalized learning plan to best meet students’ needs in middle school math.

The NYCDOE was the nation’s first district to invest in a strategy to increase personalization and drive public sector innovation from inside out. Today, cities from across the county and world are studying and employing iZone-like strategies. There are clear indications that the industrial-age education model, based on fixed time, place, pace and curriculum, is not sufficient and will not survive in our current knowledge-based economy. The iZone will continue to work at three levels - school, market and system - in order to radically improve outcomes for all students across New York City.