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.

LEAP Awarded $5.1 Million to Lead National Ed Innovation Program

The pace and quality of innovation in K-12 education may increase and improve, thanks to a significant new initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and led by Chicago’s LEAP Innovations.

Around the nation, organizations aim to transform teaching and learning to better prepare students for the 21st century, often by personalizing learning and leveraging education technology. Edtech helps teachers differentiate instruction more powerfully than ever before. Its promise has spurred an $8.4 billion edtech boom, but little beyond marketing hype is known about how well the products work.

In response, LEAP Innovations helped start a movement to evaluate edtech, piloting products and techniques that personalize instruction to each student’s level, interests, and goals so districts can quickly scale effective innovations. This new grant enables LEAP to drive collaboration among a growing number of edtech evaluators from across the country, creating much needed national industry standards and sharing of best practices. 

“In 1987, then Secretary of Education Bill Bennett called Chicago’s public schools the worst in the nation,” said Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “Today, I am proud to say we are leading the country in education innovation. Thanks in large part to LEAP Innovations, Chicago is becoming the national hub for education technology and personalized learning. We are leading a national movement to develop and scale education innovations that work.”

Continue Reading...

Breakthrough Schools Chicago Commits $4 Million to Expand Next-Gen Learning in Chicago

LEAP Innovations announced today that 16 Chicago Public Schools (CPS) will join seven schools previously selected in 2014 to be eligible for $4 million in philanthropic funding and professional development to create next-generation, personalized learning schools. The schools are located throughout the city and are a mix of traditional, magnet, selective enrollment, alternative and charter elementary and high schools. (Learn more about our schools here.) Each will undergo a complete transformation led by their principal and key teachers to create sustainable, 21st century school models that personalize instruction to meet each student’s needs, goals and learning styles.

“Breakthrough Schools Chicago reaches public schools 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.”

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We're Hiring!

Are you passionate about working with educators and innovators to create a new learning trajectory for students? If so, join the LEAP team! Available positions are listed below.

LEAP Innovations - Administrative Coordinator

LEAP Innovations - Events Coordinator

LEAP Innovations - Executive Assistant

LEAP Innovations - Chief Operating Officer

LEAP Innovations - Personalized Learning Manager

LEAP Innovations - Professional Learning Manager

For more information, contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


LEAP Welcomes Allan Golston from the Gates Foundation

Last week, Allan Golston, president of the United States Program at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, visited Chicago to see next-generation learning in action! After spending some time with the phenomenal students and educators at CICS West Belden, an innovative elementary school on Chicago's west side, Golston met with LEAP leadership and staff at our offices at 1871. A special thank you to West Belden for hosting, and to the Gates Foundation for their continued support!

Next-Gen Learning at Chavez!

LEAP Innovations is proud to help Chicago set the bar nationally for education innovation to transform teaching and learning. Our Breakthrough Schools Chicago initiative is part of an elite national group called the Next-Generation Learning Challenges Regional Funds. Our program provides grants and training to principals and teachers from neighborhood, magnet, selective, charter, turnaround, and alternative elementary and high schools across Chicago who are changing how classrooms look, teachers teach, and students engage in education by doing things such as:

  • Providing students access to differentiated content, from remediation to acceleration, through multi-age classrooms, flexible and dynamic groupings, and competency-based approaches
  • Enabling educators to engage in more 1:1 mentoring, small group instruction, and other activities that boost their effectiveness and satisfaction
  • Creating flexible classrooms with co-teaching and adaptive technologies students leverage through playlists
  • Building learner profiles that focus on academic and non-academic outcomes, allowing students, teachers, and families to map out a future for success

Recently, a group of innovative educators from the NGLC Washington, DC, region, which is led by the Citybridge Foundation, came to Chicago to learn about personalized learning. Follow the break for an article about their visit to one of Chicago's Breakthrough Schools, Chavez Elementary, in the Back of the Yards neighborhood.

Continue Reading...

Match Day 2015 Survey

Thanks to our school teams and company reps who came out to Match Day this weekend! Please take a moment to complete our Match Day survey on your experience. Select the appropriate link below. 

Companies: Take Survey

Schools: Take Survey

Ready to Try a New Edtech Tool?

We're excited to report that LEAP's Literacy Tech Challenge, our first round of full-year pilots, is well underway. We're working with 19 teams across 15 Chicago schools to pilot six ELA edtech products - whew! Check back often for updates - we can't wait to share our results! 

In the meantime, check out our 5 Point Pilot Readiness Checklist. If you're considering trying a new product yourself, answering our five simple questions can help you decide what to work on before getting started, or if you're ready to go! 

Interested in piloting with LEAP this spring? We're getting ready to start recruitment for our next round. Fill out the interest form here, and we'll get back to you with details as soon as they're available.