Breakthrough Schools: Chicago

Breakthrough Schools: Chicago is a $4 million competition for school designers and other entrepreneurial educators to develop and launch next-generation schools in Chicago that provide personalized instruction. This citywide initiative is designed to move beyond tinkering with what we have, and develop the more effective solutions we need.

The local-national partnership led by Chicago’s LEAP InnovationsNext Generation Learning Challenges (NGLC) and The Fund, aims to propel the nation’s third largest school district toward a critical mass of powerful, next-generation schools, disseminating best practices so all students are prepared to succeed with 21st Century skills. Chicago and Washington, D.C., were home to the first two regional NGLC efforts in the nation.

All the selected schools in Cohort 1 developed plans for moving their schools toward fully personalized models and received grants to support implementation against their proposals. All 15 schools in Cohort 2 developed plans and received grants for moving their schools toward fully personalized models. Of those 15, seven selected schools have begun to receive grants to support implementation against their proposals.

Winners include existing traditional public schools, charters, magnets and both elementary and high schools. Although their models may differ, they all share a clear vision: personalized teaching and learning in which each student is engaged and empowered to take charge their own learning, while each educator uses robust data to pinpoint student needs allowing them to accelerate or remediate students. The result: a new cadre of next-generation schools in some of the most challenged Chicago communities.

As part of the initiative to spur educator-led innovation and prepare a pipeline of principal-led teams to participate in Breakthrough Schools: Chicago, The Fund launched its inaugural Summer Design Program (SDP) in 2013. As a result of the program’s success, the 2014 SDP more than doubled in scale to support 40 school teams across Chicago. In 2015, 40 schools again participated ,and 45 schools are participating in the 2016 program. Of the 22 Chicago schools implementing whole-school personalized models across Breakthrough Schools: Chicago Cohorts 1 and 2, 17 have completed or are currently participating in SDP.