Announcing the LEAP Learning Framework

What is personalized learning, and what does it look like in practice?

At LEAP Innovations, we’ve considered this question a great deal as we work with educators to innovate in their classrooms. What are the core components of a truly learner-centered approach, and how do these translate into strategies to create this experience for learners?

We set out to answer these questions in the LEAP Learning Framework, complete with actionable strategies for educators to use now. Visit the LEAP Learning Framework website to learn more.

The LEAP Pilot Network is Making Headlines

Check out the buzz that our Pilot Network Cohort 1 results have been generating:

Chicago Program for Testing Ed-Tech Finds Need for Data, Smart Practice
“LEAP officials believe the preliminary data offer tips to companies and K-12 officials on the importance of sticking to sound practices, and focusing careful implementation, when using new digital tools. 'It really is about the practice, and not the tool,' said Phyllis Lockett, the CEO of LEAP Innovations.” Read more.

LEAP Innovations Looks at What Works With ThinkCERCA, Lexia Reading Core5
“The [Pilot Network] results have been eagerly anticipated, both because LEAP has been taking a cautious approach to evaluating edtech products and because its influence could be huge." Read more.

Chicago Tribune
Technology might finally fulfill promise of individualized education
“Leap Innovations, a nonprofit founded almost two years ago, aims to personalize learning for students, and while technology is part of the approach, founder Phyllis Lockett said, it's not the most important factor. 'Teaching and learning practices have to change first, but technology is used to put that on steroids,' she said.” Read more.

Finding What Works - Pilot Network Year One Results

LEAP’s Pilot Network launched in the fall of 2014, focusing on literacy edtech tools with 15 schools across Chicago. It was our first step in determining the best way to find, implement, and evaluate edtech tools and innovative teaching practices with schools, and understanding which of these tools and practices have the potential to make the biggest difference in student achievement.

We are now excited to share the results. In short, innovation in the hands of forward-thinking educators has the potential to make a real impact: overall, for grades 3-8, participation in the Pilot Network resulted in a gain of 1.07 additional test-score points above what the control group achieved on NWEA. This is equivalent to closing the achievement growth gap on NWEA for low-income students by approximately 45 percent, nearly closing the gap for Black students, and more than closing the gap for Hispanic students.

Read the full report here!

Take the LEAP Personalized Learning Survey!

Are you implementing personalized learning at your school? Or getting ready to start? Gain valuable insights into teacher practices and student experiences in the classroom by participating in the LEAP Personalized Learning Surveys.

The LEAP Personalized Learning Surveys are designed to measure the teaching practices and classroom conditions that enable personalized learning. We are now seeking partner schools to take the teacher and student surveys this spring. Participating is free. Learn more here.

Sal Khan Visits LEAP Innovations

With support from the CME Group Foundation, LEAP Innovations convened 250 educators and stakeholders from across Chicagoland for an evening with Sal Khan, founder and CEO of Khan Academy. Educators came from as far away as Batavia and Mundelein to 1871, LEAP's home and the hub for tech startups in Chicago, to hear Sal's story about founding Khan Academy and celebrate the launch of LearnStorm. LearnStorm, an online math challenge powered by Khan Academy in partnership with Hyatt Hotels Corporation, will reach more than 40,000 students across the Chicagoland area.

Sal delivered an inspiring story of entrepreneurship and emphasized the importance of personalizing learning for all students everywhere. He shared how LearnStorm is designed to help build students' confidence in math and foster a growth mindset.

LEAP Innovations and Khan Academy would like to thank all the educators and supporters who attended this special event and a very special thanks goes to the CME Group Foundation for making the event possible, and to our hosts at 1871.

To see photos of the event, click here.

Companies - Apply Now for the LEAP Pilot Network!

Do you have a math or literacy edtech product that personalizes learning for students in grades K-8? Apply to the LEAP Pilot Network!

The LEAP Pilot Network is part of LEAP Innovations, a Chicago-based nonprofit organization focused on transforming the way kids learn by better connecting education with innovation, creating personalized learning that benefits students and their teachers.

Our Pilot Network works directly with forward-thinking educators and technology companies to identify, implement and evaluate personalized learning approaches and edtech products. In the Pilot Network, companies will benefit from product pilots with high-fidelity implementation, gain visibility with district and school leaders, and receive valuable qualitative and quantitative feedback on their products. Last year, 86 percent of Pilot Network school teams adopted their edtech product after pilots ended.

LEAP is now seeking edtech companies with math or literacy products for students in grades K-8 to pilot during the 2016-2017 school year! We are especially seeking products for middle school students (grades 5-8). Learn more and apply here. 

School Teams - Join our Pilot Network!

Interested in implementing personalized learning? Join our Pilot Network!

Looking to implement personalized learning for literacy or math in your K-8th grade classrooms? Our Pilot Network works directly with forward-thinking principals and teachers to identify, implement and evaluate personalized learning techniques and edtech products based on your school's needs.  These pilots are supported with in-person coaching, onsite observations, as well as qualitative and quantitative feedback on student growth.

The program includes a robust professional development workshop series this winter/spring and a year-long pilot beginning next fall. Learn more and fill out our interest form here.

Attend one of our events on Tuesday, December 15 or Thursday, December 17 to learn more. To RSVP, visit our Eventbrite page here

Questions? Contact Chris Liang-Vergara, LEAP's Chief of Learning Innovation, via email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by phone at 312-809-7029 ext. 707.

LEAP Featured in Fast Company


The Secret to Building Great Edtech Products? Teachers.

Dave Cho, a South Korean elementary school teacher, never intended to become a startup CEO. "I’m an educator before an entrepreneur," he says. "I miss my students."

But for the last several years he has been focused on Classting, the classroom-based social platform he launched in 2012. "I used social network services like Facebook and Twitter in my classroom, but it was very difficult because of privacy issues," he says, calling from his office in Seoul late one evening. "I decided to make a more fun educational service, and a more safe service to communicate in the classroom."

His idea has become a runaway hit in South Korean schools, where students and teachers now discuss assignments via the Classting app, which combines practical features like document integration with kid-friendly touches like animal "stickers." As of June 2015, Classting had won 1.7 million student and teacher users spread across more than 12,000 schools.

Now Cho is taking Classting to the U.S., in addition to China, Japan, and Taiwan. Here, he’ll face stiff competition from established classroom management and messaging tools like ClassDojo and Remind. He’ll also join the growing ranks of educators getting involved in education technology—a few as startup founders, and many more as engaged early adopters, ready and willing to provide critical feedback.

Technologists and educators used to operate in separate spheres, resulting in frequent classroom-level frustrations. While software developers were hard at work refining the adaptive algorithms behind their curriculum apps, teachers were hard at work helping two dozen eight-year-olds reset their forgotten usernames and passwords. When the two groups did come together, in hopes of solving those practical challenges, cultural differences would often stand in the way of progress. But recent developments suggest that teachers are finding their voice, and that technologists are increasingly eager to listen.

"It seems to me that programs are becoming more intuitive to teachers than they used to be," says Marlena Hebern, a veteran educator based in Mariposa, Calif. She attributes the shifting dynamic to the competitive landscape: "There are a lot of companies vying for our attention." As a result, "they’re listening more to what teachers want."

Indeed, the edtech market has exploded over the last two years. In 2010, venture capital firms invested $414 million in education companies, according to CB Insights. By 2014, that total had quadrupled to $1.6 billion, spread across over 200 deals.

Even a dominant company like Google, which has built a significant education business through Chromebook sales and Google Classroom, is taking pains to design alongside its classroom users. Hebern, for example, found the text size of a particular Google Classroom interface too small for her students to read. She raised the issue on a message board, and "the next thing I noticed they had changed it," she says.

Educator Anderson Harp has observed a similar shift. He recently left the classroom in order to oversee technology initiatives at the Browning School, an elite private school in Manhattan. "I have contributed feedback, and I know other teachers have," he says. Though he still sees many products focused on multiple choice "drill and kill" or distracting bells and whistles—"I’ve seen some things get better."

Efforts on the part of nonprofit leaders within the education community have also had an impact. Phyllis Lockett, founder and CEO of Chicago-based LEAP Innovations, left the charter school sector in order to, as she puts it, more efficiently "link up supply and demand."

"Technology companies, honestly, are sometimes developing in a vacuum, too far away from what students and teachers need in the classroom," Lockett says. "We are bringing educators and tech companies together to collaborate. We’re also training educators on how to personalize learning."

In the LEAP model, teachers are the judge of which apps are worthy of their students. After participating in a professional development program alongside their principal and technology specialist, teachers interview a set of edtech companies that have been vetted by a national panel of experts. The companies that survive their turn in the hot seat win an opportunity to test their software during the school year.

"The teachers get to choose what they want to pilot," Lockett says. "They’re in the middle of that experiment; they have to be." As for the companies: "Many are hungry for that feedback and innovation."

Read the full article


LEAP Pitch Fest Featured in Chicago Inno


Here's A Look At The Edtech Companies That Presented At Leap Innovation's Pitchfest

1871-based edtech hub LEAP Innovations capped off an impressive summer with a pitch competition attended by Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Richard Culatta, head of the Department of Education's Office of Educational Technology.

On Thursday, LEAP and Hive Chicago hosted the Edtech Pitchfest, a pitch competition aimed at bringing together members of the Chicago education community. The event showed off several Chicago edtech companies with promise, and presented the beginning stages of what they hope will make Chicago a national leader in blended learning.

Earlier this summer, LEAP won over $5 million in grants from the Gates Foundation and committed $4 million to local schools from other sources to continue their model of testing edtech solutions and outfitting schools with blended learning. The past week, representatives from several major school districts around the country were in town observing LEAP in action, and discussing ways to bring the model elsewhere around the country. This attention caught the eye of the Department of Education: the Chicago stop on their summer-long "Edtech developer tour" coincided with the Pitchfest.

"We are an anchor for the tech community that is focused on education. We have not had that," said Phyllis Lockett, CEO of LEAP, to Chicago Inno. "[Chicago] has been very focused on bio, digital media, manufacturing, green tech--all very important. But education is foundational to our city, foundational to our country. And we have got to focus on that if we are going to advance as a country."

Mayor Emanuel made a quick stop at the event to applaud what he said will help provide more personalized education for students in Chicago schools.

"What you're doing will allow us to provide education to 400,000 kids at 400,000 speeds and capacities to different degrees," he said to the crowd. "I want the city of Chicago, while making progress on education to also be the epicenter of making progress on education technology…get [innovations] integrated into our classrooms."

Six Chicago edtech companies presented to a panel of judges that included Kenyatta Forbes, CPS' tech innovator of the year; Katrina Stevens, senior advisor at the Office of Edtech; and Shoshana Vernick, head of Sterling Partner's $200 million education investment fund.

The companies were selected through open applications and were selected because they "could have the most impact on education, on students, on helping to advance teaching in and out of the classroom," said Lockett.

Read the full article here.