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COVID-19 Quick View: Remote Learning Guidance & Resources

Letting Schools Define Their Own Pathways in Blended Learning

“Our job is to empower the innovators, empower the schools, and our communities.” (Kevin Connors)


Challenge: How to support school autonomy in a structured way.

Context: Chicago Public Schools, IL, is one of a number of districts that has focused their resources on supporting schools to craft their own visions and on building their personalized learning implementation plans from the ground up. “Our district leadership became excited about personalized learning in part by seeing the incredible work being done independently in our schools like CICS West Belden and Chavez Elementary,” explains Kevin Connors, the Director of Personalized Learning at CPS. “Our strategy is to provide schools with multiple pathways into personalization. We’re an intentionally opt-in model. This is all about building a grass-roots community.”

Action Steps: In order to facilitate multiple engagement pathways, Connors and his team curated a set of external organizations that schools could apply to partner with, depending on the pathway they chose. These pathways included:

  • Introductory engagement – Schools that wanted just a small entry point could partner, for example, with theInstitute for Personalized Learning.
  • Pilot – Schools that wanted to establish a more substantial pilot program could partner with organizations such Summit Learning and LEAP Innovations.
  • Whole School – Schools committed to a full redesign could, for example, apply for the Elevate program in partnership with LEAP.

“Schools were not bound to engage with one partner or another,” explains Connors. “They could explore until they found the right fit and then use that partnership to define their own goals and strategies.” Having a multiple-pathway strategy helped accelerate scale. In 2016, CPS had 21 district-managed schools engaged. By 2018 it was more than 100 with another 30 anticipated by the end of 2018.

Additional Example: