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Using a “Soft Launch” to Show Evidence of Success

“We need whole-school exemplars here. That is what everyone is asking for.” (Kevin Connors)

Overview

Challenge: How to build support for a new initiative among different stakeholders across the system.

Context: Chicago Public Schools, IL, engaged in a “soft launch” of their scale initiative. Rather than making public announcements early on, they waited until they had strong examples of success from classroom pilots and then used those to promote a scale effort.

Action Steps: Leaders highlighted the voices of Chicago teachers, parents and students when they began to implement personalized learning more broadly. Students came together to talk about their experiences and pilot schools opened their doors to host tours for the community. At some schools, “Parent Nights” became “Innovation Nights,” and there became a more open conversation about the purpose of school and how a personalized learning approach can help students reach their full potential. “There is so much misunderstanding about what personalized learning is,” says Kevin Connors, Director of Personalized Learning. “Giving community members and interested schools an opportunity to see their own kids in action and hear about their experiences can help clarify those misunderstandings.”

In this way, community members did not have take the value of the initiative on faith or have to rely solely on examples from other districts (that might not seem directly relevant). The soft launch also enabled district leaders to learn from the pioneering principals and teachers, from schools like CICS West Belden and Chavez Elementary, who had begun implementing blended learning already on their own.

“I don't think of us as the personalized learning department, I think of us as the department that's committed to innovation and change. How do we support people being forward thinking and innovative in their practice?” says Kevin Connors, Director of Personalized Learning. “Above all, we didn’t want to stifle innovation, we wanted to highlight it.”

Other Examples: