Chicago Public Schools and LEAP Innovations Receive $14 Million in Grants from Chan Zuckerberg Initiative to Support School-Led Personalized Learning Programs

 Chicago Public Schools (CPS) and LEAP Innovations, a nonprofit organization that works with schools and educators to implement personalized learning, announced today that they received grants totaling $14 million from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) to meet the growing demand from schools looking to introduce or expand personalized learning instructional models.

"Successful personalized learning starts with engaged and passionate teachers looking to support each student with an individualized path that helps them reach their goals," said CPS CEO Dr. Janice K. Jackson. "This grant will allow more dedicated educators and administrators to receive training and resources to implement personalized learning and best meet the unique needs of their students."

Currently, there is more demand for personalized learning programming and training from CPS schools than available resources, and this generous grant from CZI will allow principals, teachers and school communities to design or expand personalized learning models. Personalized learning is an educational approach that tailors learning to the unique needs, strengths and interests of each student by providing them with a framework to learn at their own pace with individualized support from educators who customize each student's learning path. While all students are ultimately working toward the same goals, they have a voice in choosing their path and are able to work at their own level and pace with the support of their teachers.

CZI's grant to Chicago Public Schools will directly support 35 CPS schools through its Elevate program – an intensive, 2.5 year professional development and support program in partnership with LEAP for personalized learning implementation or expansion. Funding will go toward providing more than 25 professional development experiences, technology, classroom resources, one-on-one instructional coaching, and social and emotional integration.

CZI's grant to LEAP will enable more than 100 schools – both CPS schools and schools throughout the Chicagoland area – to design, pilot, implement or expand strategies that are tailored to each student over the next two years. Funding will support professional learning for principals and teachers throughout design and implementation, classroom resources and the scaling of effective practices schoolwide.

"Personalized learning is about valuing each student, no matter where they're coming from. By developing exciting learning experiences that respect students and inspire them to take agency over their own learning, we're able to better prepare them for an increasingly complex world," said Phyllis Lockett, Founder and CEO of LEAP Innovations. "We're grateful that CZI shares our vision and are excited to help more schools and teachers in Chicago and across the country enable students to reach their full potential."

"We're partnering with Chicago Public Schools and LEAP Innovations to redesign learning environments and put far better tools in the hands of teachers — helping them do the work of their lives and provide transformative and personalized learning experiences that let students unlock their potential," said Jim Shelton, President of Education for the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. "We're proud to support CPS and LEAP 's efforts to help educators understand and meet the needs of each and every student."

This grant builds on the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative's work to empower more teachers and school leaders to create learning environments that supporting each student as a whole person—taking into account their physical, social and emotional development.

At CPS, the growth of personalized learning has been a collaborative, grassroots effort led by principals and school communities with support from CPS and external partners like LEAP Innovations. To ensure personalized learning programs are successful and meet the needs of school communities, CPS has adopted a school-driven opt-in model, meaning resources are only provided at the request of principals and school communities. In response to school interest, CPS has already provided 120 schools with access to professional development and support to implement personalized learning.

"In my 20 years of teaching, I have never seen a practice as transformative as personalized learning. My students arrive at school excited and curious about what we are studying. As a result, I have seen an improvement in student reading, writing and critical thinking skills," said Susan Bohman, a fourth-grade teacher at Talcott Fine Arts & Museum Academy in Chicago.

"The most engaging educators have always tailored their instruction to the needs and interests of their students. But the way we're intentionally designing our classrooms today is helping us make personalization the norm, not the exception," added Lisa Epstein, Principal at R. H. Lee Elementary School at Chicago Public Schools. "By working with CPS central office and LEAP Innovations, our educators have received meaningful and iterative professional development that's driving positive results for our teachers and students."

LEAP Innovations works directly with schools across the Chicago region to implement personalized learning, from grade-level pilot programs to whole-school transformation. In addition to this local work, LEAP's grant from CZI will also enable the organization to make its professional learning, research, and implementation resources available to more educators nationally. Educators across the country already use LEAP's Learning Framework as a definitive model for designing personalized learning classrooms, as well as the LEAP Personalized Learning Surveys to measure their implementation.

LEAP Principal Recognized as 2018 Golden Apple Stanley C. Golder Leadership Award Recipient

LEAP Innovations is thrilled to congratulate Stacy Stewart, Principal at Belmont-Cragin Elementary School, on winning the 2018 Golden Apple Stanley C. Golder Leadership Award! Stewart has been working with LEAP for the past three years to increase personalized learning practices, with a focus on professional development to prepare teachers for the new instructional approach.

According to Golden Apple, "Stacy Stewart has improved learning at Belmont-Cragin Elementary by using an approach that combines personalized learning with dual-language education and social and emotional learning. As the principal of Belmont-Cragin, a school community of 575 students in Pre-K through 8th grade, including more than 90 percent who qualify for the free and reduced meal program and 68 percent English-language learners, she tackles all challenges to ensure that staff and students can achieve."

Read the full story!

New Study Finds Promising Literacy Gains for Chicago Students in Personalized Learning Classrooms

In a report released today, it was found that students in the second pilot network cohort using a reading product, gained 13 additional percentile points above the comparison group on the national NWEA literacy test.

This new report examines 14 Chicago schools participating in LEAP’s Pilot network program, which brings together schools looking to design and implement personalized learning. Over the course of eighteen months, LEAP’s team of experts helps schools redesign their classroom model, implement the LEAP Learning Framework for Personalized Learning, select and implement high-quality technology to support, and test the impact. This study is based on the Pilot Network’s second cohort, which piloted during the 2015-16 school year.

Students in the cohort using a reading product gained an average of 2.94 test-score points on the NWEA test over the comparison group. The comparison group was created using data from other district and charter Chicago Public Schools from the same time period, and the analysis controlled for student characteristics such as grade, gender, race, free/reduced price lunch status, special education status, English language learner status, and prior test score. LEAP measured changes in students’ scores on NWEA Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) assessments taken before and after the model was implemented.

Putting these results another way, a typical student using a reading product in the Pilot Network would gain 13 additional percentile points above a typical comparison student starting with the same score (i.e., 50th percentile to the 63rd percentile). These gains more than double the growth LEAP saw during the first cohort, where the typical Pilot Network student advanced 6 percentile points above a typical comparison group peer.

Read the Report

New Study Suggests Personalized Learning Can Be a Financially Sustainable School Model that Prioritizes Teachers

A new analysis released today by LEAP Innovations, finds that after small upfront costs, personalized learning whole-school models can be financially sustainable innovations that enable learning experiences tailored to a students’ specific needs and strengths.

The study, conducted by education finance consulting firm Afton Partners, examined six district and charter Chicago Public Schools implementing personalized learning models over the last two years. The study found that upfront investments in personalized learning, in these cases, cost no more than 7 percent of total per-pupil funding. While technology accounted for about 40 percent of start-up costs, total recurring IT spending did not increase substantially, and accounted for about two percent of schools’ total budgets by year five.

“At a time when schools across the country are still grappling with limited budgets, this analysis shines light on a big question: how can we scale personalized models of instruction? In Chicago, we’re finding that these innovations in teaching and learning can be self-sustaining and scalable,” said Phyllis Lockett, Founder and CEO of LEAP Innovations. “This study also confirms that personalized learning isn’t about spending big on technology. It’s about rethinking how we approach teaching and learning, and develop models that encourage collaboration between all the adults and students in the building.”

In particular, innovations around staffing structures both drove personalization in schools and contributed to the models’ financial sustainability. In the study, teachers and non-teacher instructional support were consistently considered the most important resource by principals in implementing personalized learning. A consistently used strategy is a teacher-leader model, in which teachers are elevated to leadership positions, compensated with additional stipends, and lead team-taught, multi-age classrooms. Additionally, principals are dedicating existing professional development time to plan for and implement personalized learning, and teams have made it a focus in their existing professional development days.

"Our move to personalized learning is quickly proving to be a sustainable approach with incredible impact," said LeViis Haney, principal at Joseph Lovett Elementary School. "Personalized learning is about supporting great teaching, and meeting students where they are. We were able to make the shift even in an era of shrinking budgets, because it isn’t about new bells and whistles— it’s about personalized teaching and learning strategies, along with innovative approaches to time use, teacher collaboration, and other school structures. We have quickly found that our initial investment in time and resources to redesign the school have resulted in students who are more engaged and excited about learning, and teachers and staff who are reinvigorated."

Afton also assessed long-term sustainability in the face of budget cuts. According to interviews and financial scenario analyses, principals may be able to sustain severe budget cuts in a way that is comparable to or exceeds the capacity of traditional Chicago Public Schools while personalizing the learning experience of students.

“While this study is a small sample, it is instructive. Given the early promise of personalized learning and the budget realities across the country, we must understand how to make this kind of innovation not only effective for students, but also sustainable, “ said Katie Morrison-Reed of Afton Partners. “These relatively small investments can have big returns on learning.”

Read the Report

LEAP Connections

Chicago educators innovating together

The Breakthrough Schools program completed its round of school intervisitations on May 31st with visits to Patrick henry Elementary School (Pilot Network, Breakthrough Schools Cohort 2) and Wildwood Elementary School (Breakthrough Schools Cohort 1).

Over the 2016-2017 school year, LEAP facilitated intervisitations at nine Breakthrough Schools. Intervisitations offered schools low-risk ways to see other personalized learning schools in action, enrich their own evolving personalized learning models, build relationships with other educators engaged in innovation, and offer feedback to hosting schools.

When asked how these visits benefitted his team, Peter Rutkowski, Assistant Principal at Disney II said, "LEAP intervisitations throughout the year helped us feel like we were not on an island in our efforts to personalize learning, and [they] supported us in developing innovative instruction that works for our students."

Thanks to all the hosting and participating schools!


Reimagining school space and design for innovation

At the end of May, LEAP Innovations brought together schools from our Breakthrough, Pilot Network, and other programs for a professional development session from Wonder by Design, national experts in innovative school space. 

Sixteen schools – charters, district and Archdiocese – from six LEAP programs attended the collaborative work session taking participants on an inspiring journey into the “why” and “what” of school through the lens of space design. Participants left with concepts for new classroom and school-level design to support greater personalization of learning. 

Read more about Wonder by Design.

LEAP School Spotlight

St. John Brebeuf Featured on Relevant Radio

A LEAP Pilot Network school, St. John Brebeuf in Niles, was featured on a Relevant Radio discussion about personalized learning and breaking the mold of the traditional classroom. Principal Elise Matson and eighth grade teacher Cathy VanTreese spoke about what their classrooms look like now in comparison to previous years and how personalized learning has transformed their school.

Listen to the podcast.


José Clemente Orozco Academy Hosts Personalized Learning Fair

Last week, students at Orozco Academy hosted a Personalized Learning Fair for their parents, successfully demonstrating the Learner Connected component of the LEAP Learning Framework by connecting in-school learning back to families and the community. 

The students built display boards to present different aspects of personalized learning, including flexible seating, growth mindset, Friday choices, the adaptive edtech programs they use. Parents were invited to complete a learning menu, as their students do at Orozco, and had the opportunity to visit different learning stations, showing families firsthand how the student experience at Orozco has changed. Parents were then invited to share their thoughts and questions. Learn more about Orozco Elementary here.


Cahn Fellows Program for Distinguished Principals

Principals from several LEAP schools and LEAP staff recently traveled to a convening of the Cahn Fellows Program for Distinguished Principals at Columbia University, where they presented on their innovative work in front of a national audience. Principals from Lorca Elementary School and Belmont-Cragin Elementary School were invited to showcase their personalized learning efforts, and both highlighted the work they accomplished with LEAP as a major catalyst in transforming their schools. LEAP was thrilled to be in New York to witness the success of all the amazing Chicago schools presenting!

Learn more about the Cahn Fellows Program.

LEAP helps launch national Piloting Toolkit to innovate education across the country

gsv1LEAP Innovations ‐ leader of the national community of practice, the Learning Assembly – collaborated on and recently released a comprehensive toolkit to help educators, schools and districts, and edtech companies successfully develop, implement and assess edtech and personalized learning pilots.

The Learning Assembly, supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is a network of seven nonprofit organizations – Citizen Schools, Digital Promise, Highlander Institute, iZone, LearnLaunch, LEAP Innovations and the Silicon Valley Education Foundation – and has applied and tested 100 tools in 195 schools; improving learning outcomes for 28,000 students across the country.

Collectively, they have run edtech pilots with hundreds of educators in areas including Chicago, New York, Boston, Providence and the San Francisco Bay Area. Based on their experiences, these organizations have compiled tools to help others effectively plan and prepare for pilots, select the right products, garner buy-in, measure results, and share findings. The toolkit has four distinct sections with differentiated advice for piloting organizations, edtech companies, school and district teams, and individual teachers.


The Learning Assembly recently convened at the LEAP Innovations office in Chicago for two full days of idea sharing and connecting; including visits to LEAP partner schools. Learn more about the Learning Assembly and their piloting best practices by listening to the new podcast series from Getting Smart. The series of three features LearnLaunch InstituteHighlander Institute and LEAP Innovations

Access the Piloting Tookit here.
Read more about the Learning Assembly here.

LEAP Innovations represents at ASU + GSV!

gsv1The eighth annual ASU+GSV Summit, the country’s leading education innovation conference, took place in Salt Lake City earlier this month. LEAP enjoyed a great presence, leading four packed sessions and presenting both the newly released LEAP Learner Connected™ component of the LEAP Learning Framework and the Learning Assembly Piloting Toolkit. We also spotlighted the transformative work taking place in our Breakthrough Schools with a panel of some of Chicago’s most innovative principals.

In addition, LEAP CEO Phyllis Lockett led the keynote lunch panel, Hidden Figures: Women Championing For Equity in Public Education. The panel, with Kaya Henderson, Former Superintendent of DC Public Schools; Dr. Mahalia Hines, CEO of ThinkCommon Foundation; and Jessie Woolley-Wilson, President, CEO and Chair of DreamBox Learning, discussed the importance that proximity plays in developing effective and innovative solutions in education, as well as serving children and communities of high need.

You can watch video of some of our ASU+GSV sessions here:

Exploring Personalized Learning: Connecting Learners In and Out of School
Breakthrough Schools: Lessons Learned in Change Management
Piloting Partnerships: Classrooms to Companies  

LEAP Collaboratory Spotlight: Using a printer to solve a global problem

3d2For LEAP's Third Annual 3D Printing Event, 40 students from three local Archdiocese schools worked in groups to design 3D-printed solutions that help solve a local, national or global problem. The teams from The School of Saints, Faith, Hope and Charity; St. Clements School and Our Lady of Perpetual Help gathered at the LEAP Collaboratory May 9 to present their innovative ideas, including their ideation process and iteration cycles, before their peers and a panel of judges.

Feedback was given to each of the presenting eight teams from the judges and four awards were given: the Collaboration Award, the 3D Print Master Award, the Social Impact Award, and the Innovator Award. The winners of the Innovator Award took home the big prize – a 3D printer!

LEAP was thrilled to host the students and witness the culmination of a school-based project with real-world implications, as well as have the opportunity to give the students a tour of 1871. Congratulations to all who participated!  


New component of LEAP Learning Framework released

Earlier this week, LEAP Innovations released the latest edition of the LEAP Learning Framework, designed to define and guide the implementation of personalized learning in K-12 schools.

The fourth and most recently released component, LEAP Learner Connected™, helps teachers create real-world learning experiences for students connected to families, peers, and the community. Also new in this edition, across all four core components, are examples for each strategy, making the shift to personalized learning more tangible and actionable for educators.

Want to know more about how to implement Learner Connected and other personalized learning strategies in your classroom or school? Visit the LEAP Learning Framework website.