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Kelly Clarkson Helps Reinvent the Teaching of High-School Students

kelly clarkson learned some of the most important lessons in her life from her mom, a retired schoolteacher from Texas. “I’ve always been into education because my mom is an educator,” the Grammy-winning singer says. “Teachers don’t make a lot of money. But she put her whole heart into it.”

That’s why Clarkson is shining a light on XQ Institute, a nonprofit backed by Laurene Powell Jobs, the widow of Steve Jobs. In 2015, the group launched a $115 million program called XQ: The Super School Project to find ways to redesign high schools across the nation, so that students can get a better education through innovative curricula, alternative teaching techniques and more advanced technology.

Variety Power of Women Cover 2017 Kelly Clarkson
CREDIT: Art Streiber for Variety

After soliciting suggestions from the public in an open call, 10 schools were selected as XQ Super Schools, each one more different than the next. For example, in Los Angeles, a school is devoted to serving homeless youths. And in a renovated museum in Grand Rapids, Mich., students learn about science through an urban river restoration project.

“There’s a movement afoot to change the way we do high school in our country,” says XQ Institute CEO Russlynn Ali, assistant secretary of education for civil rights under President Barack Obama. “At its core, especially around high school, the model is 100 years old. Every single industry in our nation has changed, and schools have remained frozen in time. We want to help jump-start that.”

In September, Clarkson performed at a telecast with other celebrities to spread the word about The Super School Project. She’s impressed by what she’s learned so far. “A lot of times in school, you don’t get the life skills,” she says. “They just want you to know what you’re supposed to know to pass whatever test it is that year. I don’t think anyone disagrees with the fact that we can do better in education.”

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