Funding, Grants & Awards

7 More Chicago Schools Receive 'Breakthrough Schools' Funding

Sixteen schools in Chicago join a list of six others that have already received grants to make them "Breakthrough Schools," institutions that may be overhauled over the next couple of years to transform them into schools that prepare students to succeed with 21st century skills.

The 22 schools in Chicago will eventually share in $4 million to be distributed to them by Next Generation Learning Challenges (NGLC), which will give a total of $25 million over the next two years to schools in six cities and regions. The announcement of the grants to the Chicago schools is the last component of the major Breakthrough Schools program to be announced.

In each area, NGLC — an Educause initiative which funnels contributions from a number of organizations, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Broad Foundation — works with a local partner to see the school projects through to completion.

"When it comes to next-gen education and innovation, Chicago is a go-to destination for the nation," said NGLC Deputy Director Andy Calkins.

In the case of Chicago, Leap Innovations, an incubator for digital startups, will work with the schools. Other areas involved in the program and their partners are Washington, D.C. and CityBridge Foundation, Denver  with the Colorado Education Initiative, New Orleans with New Schools for New Orleans, five New England states and the New England Secondary School Consortium and Oakland, CA with the Rogers Family Foundation.

Each of the 16 Chicago schools entering the program this year will receive $30,000 planning grants that they will use to reimagine teaching and learning over a 10-month period. The schools will then compete for one of six $280,000 launch grants to implement their plans in the 2016-17 school year.

The seven Chicago schools chosen last year received $100,000 each to plan their models and could still receive up to $280,000 in additional grants.

Each school is expected to undergo a transformation led by the principal and key teachers to create sustainable 21st century models that personalize instruction to meet student needs, goals and learning styles.

NGLC defines Breakthrough Schools as those that are student-centered, have high expectations, implement blended instruction, have plans that are scalable and have the ability to become financially sustainable from public funding sources within four years.

"Breakthrough Schools Chicago reaches public schools of all types all across our city to prepare our kids to succeed with 21st century skills," said Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. "These educators are leading the way forward, paving a path for how our schools can thrive in the future."

About the Author

Michael Hart is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and the former executive editor of THE Journal.