The Principal Factor

Fall 2012

Chicago Public Schools is seizing the reins on principal preparation and is considered by some observers to be a national model for its $10 million Chicago Leadership Collaborative. The big question: Will the effort dramatically improve the quality of principals at failing schools that need strong leadership the most?

Table of Contents

A pipeline for principals

Rebecca Harris

When Mayor Rahm Emanuel in May announced details of his plans to raise the bar for CPS principals, he talked about three strategies. The district would offer a $25,000 signing bonus to bring in out-of-town principals who agreed to take jobs in low-achieving schools. A merit pay plan would, again, offer bonuses, this time to principals who met performance goals set by the district.

The most ambitious strategy was a new umbrella initiative, the Chicago Leadership Collaborative. Over three years, at a cost of $10 million, CPS would bring together four principal training programs to...

principals

Turning the page

Rebecca Harris

On the first day of school at Clemente High, about 120 more students show up than expected. It’s an early victory and a good start to the year for second-year principal Marcey Sorensen.

“We hope word is getting out that it’s a good place to be,” she says. More students have returned from last year, as well.

Reporters swarm inside and outside, as do members of the football team—all waiting for their chance to meet CEO Jean-Claude Brizard, who is there for a live radio broadcast and bell-ringing to kick off the year. Volunteers from the national service organization City Year...

principals

The turnaround test

Sarah Karp

Dressed in a gray suit, Doug Maclin stood behind a podium facing the panel of CPS board members, looking a bit uncomfortable. He was at the May meeting to brag about the changes he had accomplished during his short tenure as principal of Chicago Vocational Career Academy.

Misconduct reports and suspensions were down. Attendance was up, to 80 percent from 68 percent. And though Maclin didn’t know it at the time, academics were on the upswing: The number of students who met or exceeded standards on the Prairie State Achievement Exam rose 2 percentage points last year, and the average...

principals

By the time this issue of Catalyst In Depth reaches our readers, the dust will have settled on the city’s first teachers strike in 25 years. Daily picketing will be over, children will be back in school, misleading radio and TV ads will be off the airwaves and the overheated bluster and rhetoric about lazy teachers and greedy unions will, with any luck, be replaced by more rational discourse from cooler heads.

By the time this issue of Catalyst In Depth reaches our readers, the dust will have settled on the city’s first teachers strike in 25 years. Daily picketing will be over, children will be...
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