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Innovations For Learning

Innovations for Learning (“IFL”) is a non-profit organization, founded in Chicago in 1993, to develop software for beginning reading instruction. The organization serves low-income public schools in Chicago by providing software it has developed with leading educators, low-cost computers, training and year-long support. IFL’s software is also sold throughout the country by educational publishers, and royalties generated by these sales help fund the organization’s programs in Chicago.

IFL has also developed an Internet-based tutoring program, in which volunteers from major Chicago corporations tutor students over the Internet using Webex webconferencing tools and Skype Internet phone service. The tutors connect to the students once each week for 30 minutes from their desk or home office (or anywhere else with Internet access). The goal is to increase corporate volunteerism in the local schools by reducing the transportation time and expense of volunteering. Corporate partners include Boeing Corporation, the Chicago Tribune, IBM and Northern Trust.

IFL has recently begun serving schools in Los Angeles and will add schools in San Francisco in September. Its first corporate partner in Los Angeles is Zenith Insurance and its first corporate partner in San Francisco will be Cisco Systems.

IFL is poised to expand its services nationwide. All of IFL’s software has been converted to run on various low-cost computer devices, including PDAs now costing approximately $200, and $100 laptops now under development. IFL intends to be one of the first organizations to take advantage of the ability of school districts to afford providing one computer for each student for both classroom and home use.

The Spencer Foundation is currently funding a university-based evaluation study of IFL’s programs in Chicago, to confirm the organization’s own research on the positive impact on reading scores at the schools IFL serves. The Spencer-funded report will be available in September.

Also this September, IFL will launch its first bilingual program, which has been specially created to give teachers the option to teach Spanish-speaking students to read fluently in both Spanish and English. The Spencer Foundation is also funding an evaluation of IFL’s unique methods for bilingual education.

Partners of '63 Role

Our Partner John Keller discovered IFL through the recommendation of the Chicago Community Trust, which also funds IFL programs. John has enlisted the help of fellow Partners Bill White and John Linton to assist IFL in developing a long-term business plan for its expansion both in Chicago and nationally.

John believes that IFL offers Partners63 an opportunity to make an enormous contribution to literacy in their communities. IFL’s business model is highly scalable. It operates totally virtually, with minimal administrative expense. It requires modest upfront capital to launch in a new city, and is a particularly compelling proposition to locally-headquartered corporations seeking to expand volunteerism. IFL offers a forward-looking, unique and inspiring model for improving reading education in low-income schools, and its impact can be immediately measured by improved reading scores.

IFL is particularly interested in meeting Partners who have contacts with decision makers at major urban school districts, and with decision makers at larger corporations, and with any Partners interested in helping bring this important program to their metropolitan area.

More information about IFL can be found at

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