January 21, 2013 By Tanya Roscorla
Following in the footsteps of other city government efforts, a New York City challenge is the first in the nation to crowdsource education apps at the district level.
The Gap App Challenge asks software developers to tackle problems in middle school math. Like other large urban districts, nearly half of New York City's middle school students are behind grade level in the subject.
While students in this diverse student body have shown significant improvement over the last decade, they still have room to grow, said Steven Hodas, executive director of Innovate NYC Schools at the New York City Department of Education. Students need targeted help, whether they're below, at or above grade level.
That's why 250 schools volunteered to personalize learning for each student through the department's iZone initiative. They've tried different learning techniques and school redesigns, but they can't solve the problem alone. In the future, the Education Department plans to offer a number of challenges that tackle different education issues.
"One of the things we're trying to do with Innovate is to build this sort of powerful, flexible engine for identifying problems and aiming solutions at them in effective ways," Hodas said.