Our Kids Can’t Wait

By: Phyllis Lockett

About a decade ago in Chicago, there were at least 27 communities, mostly concentrated on the south and west sides, where over 75 percent of the schools failed state standards. Since then, we’ve helped open 80 new schools and set the bar for citywide improvements to public education, but the truth is that the zip code you are born in in this city still can define your life’s trajectory.

If you are a kid growing up in one of these communities today, unless you are lucky enough to get into a magnet, selective enrollment, or charter school, you have a 60 percent chance of graduating from high school. If you drop out, you have a 75 percent chance of being unemployed, and a very high risk of being incarcerated. Of the 30,000 freshmen who enter CPS high schools, only 8 percent will earn a college degree.

Yet, I have seen firsthand the power of next-generation personalized learning models that accelerate student achievement and increase student engagement while improving teacher satisfaction. Schools where teachers pinpoint each student’s needs, fast-track remediation, and exponentially advance students to the next level.

I have also seen the potential cost savings that these models can deliver, a concern in cities across the country, including Chicago, where the school system faces a $1 billion deficit each year.

Impossible? Go check out Chavez Elementary, a traditional public school in Chicago’s Back of the Yards neighborhood where 7th graders take algebra and advance to geometry as soon as they are ready. Or KIPP Create in our Austin community, and see how they achieved the greatest literacy gains among all KIPP campuses nationwide.

Education technology is a $1 billion industry in America, with accelerators and incubators popping up on both costs. It has caught the attention of policy makers, districts, educators and families nationally and right here in Chicago.

Yet, little is known about what tech tools actually work. Plus, educators are often on their own to integrate stuff developed far from experts in teaching and learning.

That is why I am starting LEAP Innovations, to hasten the introduction of next-generation of teaching and learning. The LEAP Innovation Hub offers a new and systematic approach to evaluating what works in the edtech marketplace. We will advance personalized learning to prepare Americans for 21st century skills by supporting pilot studies of instructional technology in schools and other learning environments, conducting research, and providing training space and programs to connect educators, entrepreneurs, tech companies, learning scientists, and students to create next-generation learning school designs, share ideas and co-develop solutions for critical learning gaps.

Chicago is home to the nation’s third largest public school district, the largest Catholic school district, and one of the largest city college populations. Our region is a microcosm of the nation, so solutions developed can be used here – as well as nationally.

Across the country, we can no longer wait for innovative models of teaching and learning to pop up in isolation. That was just the beginning. We have to work together across all school models and learning environments to blend the best of what we have with the education technology innovations that are expanding rapidly across the globe.

Our kids can’t wait.

The Smart Cities blog series catalogs innovations in learning in America’s great cities.  We’re writing a book about what we’re learning–and you can help. 
Screen Shot 2014-05-07 at 10.09.09 PMPhyllis Lockett is CEO of LEAP Innovations, an education technology hub in Chicago connecting educators and tech companies from across the nation to research, pilot, and scale instructional technology solutions that advance teaching and learning from early childhood through early college. She earned a master’ degree from Kellogg School at Northwestern University, and a bachelor’s degree from Purdue University.

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Getting Smart loves its varied and ranging staff of guest contributors. From edleaders, educators and students to business leaders, tech experts and researchers we are committed to finding diverse voices that highlight the cutting edge of learning.

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