Profiles in School Leadership: Implementing Personalized Learning

About This Report 

Across Chicago, educators are designing and implementing solutions to help students reach their fullest potential and are leveraging new tools beyond traditional academic models, including hundreds of educators now implementing elements of personalized learning — tailored and rigorous instruction, often supported by technology, that meets students’ individual learning needs, strengths and interests. This report features three case studies of Breakthrough Schools: Chicago Cohort One principals and their teams as they transform their schools’ instructional models. As other school leaders look to pursue personalized learning or school-based innovation more broadly, we are confident that they will learn from these pioneering school leaders.

Why Personalized Learning?

In 2013, The Fund launched the Summer Design Program (SDP) to foster the adoption of school-based innovations, including elements of personalized learning, in more Chicago public schools. As school-based innovations require educators to use learning time, teacher talent, curricular resources and classroom space in new ways, SDP gives principals and their teacher teams the time and support required to implement this kind of innovative change. Inspired by the successful launch of SDP, The Fund and LEAP Innovations, a Chicago-based nonprofit organization, applied to Breakthrough Schools: Chicago — a national competition for school leaders to develop and launch personalized learning innovations in Chicago. Seven teams from traditional, charter, elementary and high schools, five of whom were prior SDP participants, participated in the first cohort of Breakthrough Schools: Chicago. Through this opportunity, the seven school teams worked with LEAP Innovations to develop blueprints for their school models, used planning grants to test and pilot new innovations, and won additional grant funds to implement their models school-wide.2 Since its launch in 2014, Breakthrough Schools: Chicago has accelerated the implementation of innovative practices and personalized learning models in 22 Chicago public schools and for 13,000 students. The Fund’s $1.06 million in direct-to-school grants for the first cohort of participants, as well as our $750,000 grant to LEAP Innovations to support and provide programming to the second cohort, reinforced our belief that educators are best-positioned to drive instructional innovation.

Why Profile Principals?

We chose to ground this report in the principal perspective because they are the instructional leaders of their schools, responsible for developing and managing pedagogical practice. Beyond sharing these stories, The Fund is committed to creating and supporting the conditions that will allow continued innovation in Chicago’s public schools. Click the buttons below to read the report or to learn more about Breakthrough Schools: Chicago.

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