Innovate NYC Schools

Connecting startups and educators to inspire new solutions

With the support of Innovate NYC Schools, educators and startups gain a new understanding of each others’ work.

Educators learn about products that can help them solve real challenges. And edtech professionals learn how to support the education community.

We think when startups partner with educators, the best edtech tools are created.

School Choice Design Challenge

Every year, nearly 80,000 eighth-grade students apply to New York City’s 400 high schools. This process can be pretty grueling, but luckily it’s about to get a lot easier--thanks to iZone’s School Choice Design Competition (SCDC).

To help families and students better navigate the high school application process, the iZone invited six edtech companies to design and create more user-friendly applications that would allow families to easily compare school options. The School Choice Design Challenge (SCDC) was one of the first instances in the country where a public school district released data via an "application program interface"  (API). API allows software programs to talk to each other, making school-level data easily available for our software developers to build out their school choice solutions. The app deemed most helpful by a panel of New York City high school students was created by StartClass, a 4-year-old edtech company from California. FindTheBest allows students to easily make side-by-side comparisons of the city's high schools based on a variety of characteristics -- from parent reviews to SAT scores to morning start times.
Having choice is great; making the selection is not. Guidance Counselor
Other apps developed as part of the contest allowed students to:
  • Create their own avatars,
  • Search for all schools on a particular subway line,
  • Share lists of preferred schools with friends that can be worked on collaboratively,
  • Attend live-streamed webinars with high school staff, and
  • Use a "recommendation engine" that asks a series of questions and provides a list of "friendly suggestions" based on responses.


The SCDC launched on September 17, 2013 and concluded November 12, 2013 with a public demo night.

Gap App Challenge

We issued the first district-sponsored software challenge and invited developers from across the country to submit ideas for apps that would help close the achievement gap in middle school math.  The challenge connected experts in the edtech field with experts in the classroom to create apps that would help teachers more effectively manage their classrooms, tailor lessons to students with different ability levels, and increase engagement. Out of more than 200 applicants, winners were selected including adaptive learning company KnowRe (Best Instructional App), Google Apps management startup Hapara (Best Instructional/Engagement App), video-based math lesson website Mathalicious, and behavior tracking software company LiveSchool. Winners received $104,000 in cash prizes and Amazon web service credits.


The Gap App Challenge launched on January 7, 2013 and concluded May 28, 2013 with a press conference announcing the winners.

NYC BigApps

NYC BigApps is an initiative of NYCEDC to promote the creation of innovative new civic technologies through a city-wide technology competition. The Mayor, the First Lady, and numerous city agencies have sponsored BigIdeas with the goal of stimulating the tech community to create apps that improve the lives of New Yorkers. The NYCDOE’s iZone is leading the Learn Track for apps that support education at all ages. Find more information and apply for Only Connect! and FundaMental Health.


Submissions were due July 12th. Learn more by visiting the BigApps website.


  • Saturday May 31st CityCamp & National Day of Civic Hacking. We’ll have experts from across city agencies demo + Q&A on education data
  • Thursday June 5th 'Appy Hour Manhattan We invite the whole BigApps community to get better acquainted and break the ice before we build.
  • Saturday Jun 7th BigBuild Manhattan Drill down on your product's purpose, code, and design. Come tinker with Google Glass enthusiasts, recruit new teammates, get inspired by Hardware Experts, and visit the BigApps Mentor Station to tap into the expertise of the sharpest minds in tech.
  • Thursday June 19th 'Appy Hour Queens: Getting to Beta Form teams, share ideas, and mingle with BigIdea partners and other sponsors
  • Saturday June 21st BigBuild Queens: Perfecting Your Product You know the drill: build, test, repeat.
  • Saturday July 19th - Product Showcase The first-ever BigApps Product Showcase is where we introduce BigApps to the world.

Short-Cycle Evaluation Challenge

SCEC matches software companies with teacher teams, based on a classroom challenge identified by the teacher team and a product’s potential to alleviate the challenge.

Building on what we’ve learned from the Gap App Challenge, the iZone launched the Short-Cycle Evaluation Challenge (SCEC), a call for cutting-edge personalized learning programs and innovative teachers. Over the 2014-15 school year, SCEC  has paired 10 tools with schools based on the defined needs of the schools’ teacher teams to rapidly evaluate who the product works for, when, and under what circumstances. Short-cycle evaluations are semester-long studies that assess the effects of an edtech program in terms of implementation quality, user feedback, and preliminary indications of learning outcomes. The SCEC is an opportunity for edtech developers to receive product evaluations from an independent research team and  improve their products by working with New York City educators. For NYC educators, it’s an opportunity to shape edtech tools that solve authentic classroom needs. Questions? Email