Over the last two years, Kellogg Elementary School has implemented innovative programs that school officials said have improved student success and enhanced the learning atmosphere.

Survey and test results show the programs are working, and school officials said more positives are on the way.

Last school year, Kellogg, 9241 S. Leavitt St., became a personalized learning school with LEAP Innovations, a national organization based in Chicago that focuses on improving teacher-student relationships and includes having professionals visit schools to “coach” teachers.

And, thanks to a focus on restorative justice, the school is also now recognized as an Established Supportive School—the second-highest mark—in the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) Supportive Schools Certification rankings, which evaluate the social and emotional success of students.

Jennifer Freeman, Kellogg’s school support specialist, said the new methods at the school work hand in hand—and help students feel more confident at school.

“It’s more than just looking at academics,” Freeman said. “It’s actually seeing children for who they are as a person when they come to us. I think it’s just created something deeper than what most schools have.”

Last spring, Kellogg teachers began attending sessions for LEAP at 1871, a center for technology and entrepreneurship in the Chicago Merchandise Mart. Founded four years ago, LEAP has worked with over 125 schools in and around Chicago to improve personalized learning.

Last spring, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced a $14 million grant to LEAP and CPS.

LEAP officials visit Kellogg teachers twice a month, and teacher attend sessions at 1871 every other month.

Freeman said the program “provides us another way to give every child in this building what they need.”

Kellogg now has a “Wolf Den” study area in the hallway, as officials took advantage of as much space in the building as possible.

Classrooms also feature flexible seating, with students utilizing rugs, sofas and softer chairs.

Teachers also complete “student shadow projects,” in which they accompany students in different grade levels than the ones they teach to see how they might improve students’ learning experiences.

Kellogg Principal Cory Overstreet, in his third year leading the school, said the project gave teachers new ideas.

“It opened up some eyes about how classes can be structured a little bit different,” Overstreet said, “to make it more engaging and more meaningful for the 28 kids in the class.”

Freeman, who taught first grade at Kellogg the past two years, said she held one-on-one meetings with students to work on their reading skills. She was impressed to see one student set a goal over summer vacation to reach a higher level—then achieve it.

In improving students’ social and emotional confidence—and earning the CPS Supportive Schools Certification ranking—Kellogg often hosts peace circles for students. At the beginning of the school year, students gathered under a willow tree in front of the school to discuss their theme for 2018-19—working together as a team.

Meg Rooney, a school counselor and case manager, said just listening to students proves the approach is working.

“You’re hearing them say, ‘Is that respectful? Is that kind?’” Rooney said. “It’s reassuring that it’s sticking.”

The school has also promoted a positive social environment by having a peace team from Bethlehem Evangelical Lutheran Church, 9401 S. Oakley Ave., work with sixth- and seventh-graders.

This year’s seventh-graders are also set to welcome Judge Tom Hogan, a local resident, for meetings in which students will review cases using both the standard judicial process and restorative justice.

Overstreet said some immediate responses to the restorative justice approach included concerns that students were not being punished for misbehavior. However, he said it has a real effect.

“It’s not about that,” Overstreet said. “It’s skill building and having reflection.”

According to Overstreet, data shows Kellogg has improvements in math scores, a stronger support system for academic work and a higher rate of student-teacher trust.

Kellogg has one class for each grade, so teachers often utilize small-group work.

Feedback from students on that approach, Overstreet said, has been positive. Students feel as if they have more personal time with teachers. They’re learning more—and they’re happier.

“When I asked students in class, ‘What do you think about this small-group [work]?’ one kid smiled … he’s like, ‘I love it because I feel smart,’” Overstreet said. “He’s able to ask questions of the teacher without feeling embarrassed. You can get that question answered.”

For more information on LEAP, visit the website at leapinnovations.org.