CICS West Belden Personalized Learning Journey Case Study

I am proud of our students and staff at Chicago International Charter School (CICS) West Belden and celebrate them with the launch of their case study that shares CICS West Belden’s Personalized Learning Journey.casestudy.png

In 2011, CICS West Belden became operated by Distinctive Schools, and we knew all of CICS West Belden students deserved the opportunities to fulfill their hopes and dreams, as well as grow a love for learning. Since we wanted to support each child in becoming an engaged and curious learner, in 2013, CICS West Belden began its journey into personalized learning.

The first step was to build a foundation and create a culture of respect, innovation and self direction. 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. Since then, CICS West Belden has piloted innovative ideas, refined and implemented  methods, and transformed the student experience.

Today, CICS West Belden serves 530 students in grades kindergarten to eighth grade, and is a place where learning is cultivated and where students are active partners in their education. Likewise, CICS West Belden 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.

It is an incredible case study written in collaboration with FSG and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, LEAP Innovations, Chicago International Charter School, The Chicago Public Education Fund, Next Generation Learning  Challenges (NGLC), Summit Public Schools, and The Learning Accelerator.

For your copy of the CICS West Belden Case Study, visit:

What’s going on in Oklahoma

Here’s a great analysis of what’s going on in the State of OK. Seems like these lawmakers need an attitude adjustment. Just what the teachers seem to giving them. And, it seems like kids in OK are low on the list of priorities of top many OK politicians.

‘Students have just had enough:’ Walkouts begin across the nation one month after Florida shooting – The Washington Post

Where do you stand on this issue? A good bit more civil action, even unrest can be the way to change. Hopefully, you stand WITH kids across America who invested 17 minutes to honor those who lost their lives and to help get attention of lawmakers to save our schools from gun violence. As an example, I’m very proud of the Distinctive Schools leaders who helped plan their students’ activities to voice their stances on the issue. Check them out at

Students at thousands of schools across the country plan to walk out of class at 10 a.m. Wednesday to protest gun violence and to mark one month since a mass shooting in Florida.
— Read on

Shameful Connection to the Parkland School Shootings

See the NYT article/link below. It is shameful that the President made this connection between Obama school policies and the Douglas HS shootings. It makes no strategic sense so it has to be all politics. What a horrible disservice to the victims. 

App warning for parents of school-age children

This is worth clicking on and reviewing. Some apps to be aware of posing possible danger to kids.

Education Week

Important post penned by Jennifer Ferrari, chief of schools for the Distinctive Schools network and senior advisor to the ERDI III cohort of dedicated educators.
— Read on

A child’s brain develops faster with exposure to music education – Music Education Works

A study by researchers at the University of Southern California shows that exposure to music and music instruction accelerates the brain development of young children.
— Read on

Javon A. Lee Tuition & Fees

Every once in a while we as educators come across a student that captures our hearts instantly and leaves a lasting impact.  For me, that student is Javon Lee. I met Javon during my tenure in Delaware and know him and his family to be deeply committed to education. Javon is currently a sophomore at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, majoring in History with a minor in Ancient Studies. While Javon’s family is doing all they can to keep him enrolled in school, it’s not always easy. They need our help. I’m asking you to join me in helping this bright scholar and amazingly talented young man continue his studies. Javon has been writing and editing books since he was 8 years old. He’s served as a Student Ambassador representing the United States with People to People, traveling to New Zealand and Australia for a month. He’s also very active in his community and school. Javon is a firm believer in the power of wisdom and knowledge. Let’s help him continue pursuing his dreams that will afford him the opportunity to serve as a public servant and strong advocate on behalf of his community and country.

Dr. Maya Angelou said, “When you learn, teach, when you get, give.”

Please give this young man the same opportunity we have had to learn.

Please donate at:

Congress has failed our kids. And they can still act before this gets worse.

See Deb Delisle’s perspective on school safety, social emotional supports, and how so much of this rests with Congress and the USDE.

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— Read on

Is Nikolas Cruz also a victim?

Even as horrible an act as was committed by Nikolas Cruz, and nothing to me seems more horrible than taking the lives of innocent people with an automatic assault-grade rifle, I still wonder:  Is Nikolas Cruz also a victim?

In news coverage Broward school superintendent Bob Runcie indicated that there was at least one school resource officer (armed) at the school on duty at the time. This problem is about:

1.  Responsible gun background checks (lacking),

2.  decently funded mental health programs (lacking); and,

3.  suitable funding and mandatory state laws for effective alternatives to school expulsion (lacking).

It appears all three of these areas were lacking and created this perfect storm and another sense mass-loss of innocent lives. Sad,  tragic and really pathetic on the part of national and state public officials.  These critical elements of school safety require sincere politicians and responsible funding for mental health and alternative programs for (Especially) troubled kids.

It appears that Nikolas Cruz may have provided all the mental health warning signs needed. Even so, we cannot in good faith blame educators and this school system.  We must look at critical factors–and politicians know what to do.  They have this blood on their hands-in Washington, D.C. and in State Houses across the nation-for their persistent failure to take action.

Pass responsible gun background check laws + restore mental health funding + expel kids only to a suitable alternative education site that works for the kid.  3 simple fixes! Do we care enough to do so?

Nikolas Cruz, 19, is the man suspected of fatally shooting at least 17 people at a South Florida high school on Feb. 14. Here’s what you should know.

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