Innovate NYC Schools


Innovate NYC School projects supports schools by connecting educators and students, who understand school and classroom needs, with edtech companies who are developing innovative teaching and learning solutions.

Innovate NYC Schools was established through the USDOE Investing in Innovation (i3) grant program to foster a thriving edtech ecosystem for NYC schools.

Featured Project: SCEC

Through the Short-Cycle Evaluation Challenge (SCEC) iZone is developing a rigorous edtech research and evaluation process to help educators make informed decisions about technology tools that support teaching and learning, and guides edtech companies’ product development to be more relevant for NYC classrooms. Short-cycle evaluations are semester-long studies on edtech products used by teacher teams in their classrooms.

In each cycle, schools are matched with edtech companies whose products are designed to meet a specific need or issue identified by the teacher team. Throughout the process, teacher teams collaborate with edtech companies and researchers through workshops and school visits to improve their teaching practice and provide feedback on what’s working.



iZone hosts monthly #SharkTankEDU events that bring together educators and edtech startups to to review emerging tech solutions against real challenges in school communities. #SharkTankEDU provides a safe space for educators to critically evaluate new edtech products and provide early-stage feedback that helps edtech startups and entrepreneurs develop more responsive products for education. 

How to Participate

We select and match edtech startups and educators sharks based on their areas of interest. If you’re interested in participating, email us at


If you haven’t seen the show, Shark Tank, we’ve adapted the show’s model to help startups build better products for education. The event format includes three edtech product demos in front of seven reviewers (a.k.a. “Sharks”). The “Sharks” then have 20 minutes for interactive Q&A with the presenters before completing a feedback form.

Startups: this is a great opportunity to learn about principal stakeholders as your end-user.

Educators: this is a great opportunity to learn about new and upcoming edtech products and provide feedback to developers before these products reach your school communities.


Hear from NYC educators and iZone staff about the #SharkTankEDU experience and the value of educator voice in edtech:




Run Your Own #SharkTankEDU

Bring #SharkTankEDU to your school community! Check out our starter guide for tips to get started:

Short-Cycle Evaluation Challenge


In NYC Schools, educators may have access to hundreds of software products and licenses are typically renewed each year without reliable information about what works. We believe that school leaders need better information to decide what edtech products will be effective given this massive marketplace.

Building on what we’ve learned from the Gap App Challenge, iZone launched the Short-Cycle Evaluation Challenge (SCEC) in 2014—a call for cutting-edge personalized learning tools and innovative teachers to evaluate who edtech products works for, when, and under what circumstances. SCEC matches school teacher teams with edtech companies to pilot new products that address the needs of their students. Educators gain news skills implementing technology and assessing what works in their classroom, and have the opportunity to shape edtech tools that solve real classroom needs.

Through SCEC, iZone is developing a new process for edtech piloting that is less intensive than Randomized Control Trials (RCTs) and more robust than product reviews. This new short-cycle process provides more timely information to educators and school leaders so they can make more informed decisions about implementing technology tools that support student achievement. Funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, SCEC is one of seven national test-beds to design short-cycle edtech pilots.

Ready to apply to the SY 2016-17 cohort of SCEC? Read our blog post to learn more about the process and application.

Fast Facts

  • Nearly 100 educators and 24 edtech companies have participated in SCEC edtech pilots since school year 2014-15.
  • School teams have piloted edtech tools to support personalized learning including assessing student mastery and delivering differentiated content depending on student needs.
  • iZone is doing this work in partnership with the member institutions of the Learning Assembly.


Hear about the SCEC experience from educators and companies who have participated in these videos:

Elevating educator voice in the development of edtech products from iZone on Vimeo.

School Choice Design Challenge


Each year in NYC nearly 80,000 eighth-grade students apply to high school, choosing from more than 700 program options. While the NYC Department of Education has made significant efforts to provide students and families with training and resources to help them evaluate their school options, many still find it difficult to make a truly informed decision about where to apply.



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.

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.