$14 million Chan Zuckerberg Grant Expands Personalized Learning in Chicago

Chicago Public Schools (CPS) and LEAP Innovations have received a $14 million infusion from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) to build up the district's personalized learning programs. The funding will be used to support an expansion of professional development, new resources and classroom redesign around personalized learning. It will also enable LEAP to broadcast its practices, research and implementation resources to more educators nationally.

LEAP Innovation is a non-profit that works with schools to implement this educational approach, which tailors the learning for each student to address his or her individual needs, strengths and interests. In this model, while students are working towards the same goals, how and when they get there differs. The approach, according to proponents enables students to take control of their own learning. LEAP's Learning Framework has found pickup as a system for designing personalized learning classrooms. The organization also offers personalized learning surveys to measure implementation.

Already, 120 of Chicago's schools have embedded personalized learning into the classroom. The latest investment will enable the school system to expand that through an opt-in application process that begins in the fall. Priority will be given to low-performing schools. The grant will help the educators and school leaders at those campuses to receive training and resources for implementing personalized learning.

Specifically, the funding will support 35 schools through its "Elevate" program, described by the Chan Zuckerberg organization as an "intensive, 2.5-year professional development and support program," delivered in partnership with LEAP.

"In my 20 years of teaching, I have never seen a practice as transformative as personalized learning," said Susan Bohman, a fourth-grade teacher at Chicago's Talcott Fine Arts & Museum Academy, in a prepared statement. "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."

"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. "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."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.