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 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.”

Building the Future of Education, Together.

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.