New York City’s iZone

January 2011

Can public schools learn to embrace innovation and employ cutting edge technology to solve students’ most persistent learning problems? In 2010, New York City’s Department of Education (NYCDOE) created the Innovation Zone (iZone) to try to accomplish just that. The NYCDOE believes iZone schools can produce breakthrough results by harnessing technology, altering the use of staffing structures and time, adopting much more rigorous standards for student work, and creating highly personalized environments.

This report reflects the findings of a CRPE study of the iZone, its goals and challenges.

NYC is one of the first districts in the country to try to scale up broad innovation. As they move to take the iZone to scale, district officials face daunting challenges in promoting true innovation within the massive bureaucracy of New York City public schools. Some of the problems are evident now; others are likely to emerge in the future. Over the next few years, how the district copes with challenges like the inertia of the status quo, risk management and accountability, and paying for scale will offer lessons for other districts who follow suit.