Distinctive Schools Celebrates CICS West Belden with Release of Personalized Learning Case Study!
At Distinctive Schools, we are celebrating Chicago International Charter School (CICS) West Belden!
CICS West Belden is located in the Belmont Cragin neighborhood of Chicago, and in 2011, became operated by Distinctive Schools, a school management organization (SMO) with three other schools in the Chicago area. At this time, classrooms at CICS West Belden were more traditional, with desks in rows. However the classroom set-up didn’t forge an environment of camaraderie and love of learning. As stated by Colleen Collins, now School Director at CICS West Belden, “Students were well-behaved and on task, but their engagement was low.”
Therefore, in 2013, CICS West Belden began its journey into personalized learning and the first step was to build a foundation and create a culture of respect, innovation and self direction. This step would help lay the groundwork for personalized learning, so the school’s leadership team attended the Summer Design Program led by LEAP Innovations. This design workshop offered the CICS West Belden team the “space, time, and expertise to design innovative solutions to some of their most pressing challenges,” and, at the program, numerous ideas came together.
CICS West Belden then spent nearly a full year planning the details of the pilot classrooms to first implement personalized learning before going school-wide. When the pilot team was chosen for the 2014-15 school year, the team began working quickly to prepare for implementation. Since then, CICS West Belden has piloted innovative ideas, refined and implemented methods, and transformed the student experience.
“Switching to a personalized learning model can be overwhelming for teachers and staff,” stated Scott Frauenheim, President and Chief Operating Officer at Distinctive Schools, “Though, we learned by implementing personalized learning through pilot teachers and classrooms first, before implementing it school-wide, we were able to take changes one step at a time.”
Fast forward to April, 2018 - CICS West Belden serves 530 students in grades kindergarten to eighth grade, and CICS West Belden Bulldog pride is exemplified across the building. When you walk into classrooms, they look more like start-up companies than a traditional classroom -- with small group spaces, futons, and technology such as iPads or Chromebooks for all students.
“Today, our school is a place where learning is cultivated and where students are active partners in their education,” stated Ms. Collins. “Likewise, our teachers collaborate together, as well as with families and students, to design learning experiences that provide all our students with curriculum and instruction that showcases their passions, successes, and ambitions.”
We are thrilled to share a case study which tells the story of CICS West Belden’s journey. The case study was written in collaboration with FSG. FSG is a mission-driven consulting firm, with extensive work in issues related to personalized learning and nonprofits.
This case study is helping inform education leaders, as well as our school communities, on one school’s journey to personalized learning, and it includes lessons learned, the steps in CICS West Belden’s personalized learning journey, challenges along the way, the value of partnerships, and the focus on the future. For your copy of the CICS West Belden Case Study, visit: http://bit.ly/Distinctive_Journeys_to_PL