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Citywide Leap Day Event Celebrates Student and School LEAPs in Academics, Engagement and Leadership

In honor of the 2020 leap day, nonprofit LEAP Innovations is partnering with dozens of schools throughout metro Chicago celebrating the exemplary growth, achievement, student leadership and agency of learners in Chicago schools (photos available for download). Enabled by personalized learning, which reshapes the learning experience around the needs, interests and strengths of students, these big “leaps” show promising impact in preparing children to lead in the future economy - fueling growth in Chicago and beyond.

More than 140 schools have worked with LEAP to organize around the principles of personalized learning. In doing so, they have engaged in rigorous processes to infuse more equitable practices into the learning experience, empower students and create opportunities to connect learning experiences to future impact in the world. Throughout Chicago, and especially in economically challenged communities, this approach has ignited academic gains for students and a more satisfying experience for educator teams.

An informal audit of LEAP educators conducted in June 2019 indicated that more than 80 percent believed the implementation of personalized learning heightened their students’ human skills, including critical thinking skills (89 percent), ability to collaborate as a team (89 percent), and ability to advocate for themselves (92 percent). Almost eight out of 10 teachers (79 percent) said that implementing personalized learning helped to advance their effectiveness as an educator.

“Personalized learning guides students to set high expectations, reinforces the development of ownership and agency to achieve their ambitions, and connects their hard work in the classroom with making an impact in their world,” said Phyllis Lockett, LEAP Innovations founder and CEO. “We have seen that when learning environments empower students to take ownership of their experience in the classroom, their leadership skills flourish, personal agency increases and a foundation is laid for future achievement that will ultimately benefit Chicago as they lend their talents to our workforce.”

As part of the citywide LEAP Day celebration of these accomplishments, students at LEAP schools are writing letters to their future selves reflecting on past “leaps” and setting goals for “leaps” they hope to take for themselves, their schools, and their communities by the next leap year in 2024. An estimated 4,000 students are participating, demonstrating the leadership, self-direction and future focus that is a hallmark of students who have taken ownership of their learning.  

At Belmont-Cragin Elementary School, LEAP Day is being marked with an all-school assembly with more than 400 students, community members and educators. Several students have been selected to read their letters outlining how they plan to connect their academic experiences with positive impact that strengthens Chicago. At the conclusion of the event, students are placing their letters to their future selves in a large time capsule, to be opened on leap day 2024. To cap the event, and in the spirit of “leaping,” the Jesse White Tumblers are performing.

An exemplar, CPS Level 1+ school, Belmont-Cragin has demonstrated leaps in powerful ways. As student enrollment has increased by 12 percent since 2014, teacher retention has exceeded state and district levels for the past three years.  

“Our school has come a long way,” said Belmont-Cragin Elementary School Principal Stacy Stewart. “Our students are emerging as leaders. Every child in our school has had the opportunity to grow and develop and that has only come about as a result of our journey to personalize learning.” 

Among the schools participating in the LEAP Day celebration with parades, parties, time capsules, and other activities are Acero Santiago in Humboldt Park, Perkins Bass Elementary School and Stagg School of Excellence in Englewood, Ashburn Community Elementary School in Ashburn, Richard Lee Elementary School in West Lawn and CICS West Belden in Belmont-Cragin. The leaps each school has made, details of their LEAP Day celebrations and quotes from school leaders, along with a selection of students’ letters to their future selves, are available on the LEAP Day website and the LEAP Innovations Facebook (@LEAPinnovationseducation) and Twitter (@leapinchicago) pages.

LEAP Innovations is a national 501c3 organization headquartered in Chicago that connects innovation and education to transform how students learn. LEAP works directly with educators and innovators to discover, pilot and scale innovative personalized learning practices and technologies. In less than five years, LEAP has worked directly with more than 140 schools across Chicago to implement personalized learning. LEAP’s work is anchored by the LEAP Learning Framework, a suite of resources that educators across the country are using to define, design, and implement personalized learning models. Visit for more information.

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