New Designs for School
New Designs for School

We’ve all had the experience of truly purposeful, authentic learning and know how valuable it is. Educators are taking the best of what we know about learning, student support, effective instruction, and interpersonal skill-building to completely reimagine schools so that students experience that kind of purposeful learning all day, every day.

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Led by LEAP Innovations, Breakthrough Schools: Chicago is a multi-year, citywide initiative to cultivate the next generation of school models in Chicago through support programs and funding mechanisms. Part of the Regional Funds for Breakthrough Schools, the grant competition is for school designers and other entrepreneurial educators to develop and launch next generation schools that provide personalized instruction.

The local-national partnership, led by Chicago’s LEAP Innovations along with Next Generation Learning Challenges, aims to propel the nation’s third largest school district toward a critical mass of powerful, next generation schools, disseminating best practices so all students are prepared to succeed with 21st century skills. Chicago and Washington, D.C., were home to the first two of these regional NGLC efforts.

Podcast: Listen to Phyllis Lockett and Amy Huang discuss personalized learning at LEAP Innovations. Produced by the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation.

The 2014 cohort of school design teams competed for $100,000 planning grants. Winners include new startups as well as existing traditional public schools, charters, magnets, and turnarounds. Although their models may differ, they all share a clear vision: blended teaching and learning in which each student is engaged and empowered to take charge their own learning, while each educator uses robust data to pinpoint student needs allowing them to accelerate or remediate students. The result: a new cadre of next generation schools in some of the most challenged Chicago communities.

A Summer Design Program, launched by the Chicago Public Education Fund, spurs educator-led innovation and prepares a pipeline of principal-led teams to participate in Breakthrough Schools: Chicago. The series of workshops helps school design teams and others create strong planning grant applications.

In addition to the planning grant winners announced in late April 2014, Chicago also can claim several NGLC grantees (KIPP, Intrinsic, Foundations) who are transforming public schools into 21st century learning experiences. The newest cohort of planning grant recipients was announced in June 2015.


Chicago Tribune article on Breakthrough Schools: Chicago grant recipients.

Contact: Tim Carnahan,

Our Partners

LEAP Innovations logo

LEAP Innovations

Regional Funds

LEAP Innovations advances personalized learning to prepare Americans for 21st Century skills by piloting, evaluating and diffusing successful teaching and learning innovations. Through the LEAP Pilot Network, the organization identifies education technology tools for critical learning gaps and matches them with learning environments prepared for them to create a rapid feedback loop, accelerating refinement while using rigorous standards so educators can quickly adopt what works. LEAP also provides co-working and training space and programs to bring together school designers, educators, entrepreneurs, tech companies, learning scientists and students to develop next-generation learning models, share ideas, co-develop solutions, and receive quality training.
The Chicago Public Education Fund logo

The Chicago Public Education Fund

Regional Funds

The Chicago Public Education Fund is a nonprofit organization working to build a critical mass of great public schools in Chicago by investing in talented principals and enabling effective educator teams to reinvent classroom learning. The Fund serves as a catalyst for accelerating positive learning and life outcomes for students in all of Chicago’s charter and district public schools. The Fund is a longstanding leader in identifying and scaling what works for teachers and principals, as well as for the students they serve.