Locally and nationally, the conversation around public education in Chicago focuses on how strong school leadership has positively impacted thousands of students.

Today, Chicago students are improving faster than their peers in most major cities on commonly tracked measures of student success – from reading and math gains on the Nation’s Report Card, to growth on freshmen on-track, attendance, ACT scores, graduation rates, college enrollment and degree attainment.

As we look to accelerate these gains, we must understand the state of leadership in our public schools, especially those which began the 2017-18 school year with a new principal, by considering three key questions:

Who are Chicago’s principals?

Chicago principals are diverse professionals who enjoy more control over budget, curriculum and staffing decisions than their peers across Illinois and in other major cities.

  • Source: Chicago Public Schools, data available for 515 principals in district-operated schools. This information is not compiled centrally for the 121 charter schools and 21 other public schools.

To learn more about the principals leading in Chicago's 657 public schools, download this table. You can use the spreadsheet to explore school demographics, governance, enrollment and performance, as well as principal turnover by school (district-operated schools only). You can also see engagement in Fund programs (where available) for the current principal.

Who are Chicago’s new principals?

Chicago's 102 new principals lead 16 percent of Chicago's public schools, serving more than 50,000 students in the 2017-18 school year. Of the schools led by these new principals, 16 have experienced three or more principal transitions in the past five years. However, there are 17 fewer new principals compared to the 2016-17 school year.1

New principals are leading across the city. Explore the map below to learn more about each school with a new principal.

School Name
247 W 23rd Pl
Chicago, IL 60616
Principals in the Last Five Years
2017-18 Principal
Principal Name
Management Network
2017-18 SQRP
Level 1+
Low Income
English Language Learner
Diverse Learner
African American
  • District public schools with a new principal
  • Charter public schools with a new principal
  • Other public schools with a new principal
  • Other public schools include contract, ALOP and SAFE schools.
  • 1 To learn more about the 119 new principals from the 2016-17 school year, visit the 2016 School Leadership Report.

New principals can be found in all types of schools:

New principals come from a variety of backgrounds.2

New district principals are most likely to come from assistant principal positions within Chicago Public Schools (CPS).

Compared to district principals overall, new district principals in the 2017‑18 school year are more likely to be Hispanic/Latino (21% v. 16%), female (70% v. 66%) and between the ages of 36 through 45 (59% v. 38%).

Thirty-nine percent of new district principals are graduates of the Chicago Leadership Collaborative, a partnership between CPS and program providers that prepares aspiring principals.

  • 2 Source: Chicago Public Schools, data available for 71 new principals from district-operated schools only. This information is not compiled centrally for the 26 new charter school principals and 5 new other public school principals.

How can Chicago continue to prioritize principal leadership?

Principals need support at all stages of development, starting from the first year in their role. Recognized for prioritizing principal leadership, Chicago is ensuring new principals are positioned for success through several initiatives:

The Department of Principal Quality at CPS welcomes new principals and prepares them to lead through a new principal boot camp each summer. Throughout the school year, new principals also receive one-on-one coaching from mentors and participate in professional learning communities to strengthen their skills, collaborate with colleagues and address challenges they experience.

The Chicago Principal Partnership’s Pipeline Partners Council convenes renowned principal preparation experts and leaders from CPS and principal training programs to evaluate and strengthen the current state of principal preparation and placement citywide. Strong pipeline programs leverage insights from this work to equip new principals with the tools and skills they need their first day and beyond.

In addition to this work, Chicago can take steps to stay on the leading edge of principal quality efforts by creating an environment that encourages strong principals to stay in their schools:

Nonprofits can take action to provide the supports principals need. Seventy-eight percent of Chicago’s principals responded to our 2017 survey; respondents said that increased school funding, reduced compliance and better compensation would keep them in their roles longer. Nonprofits and the public can explore these results and more insights about Chicago’s public school principals on The Chicago Principal Partnership’s website.

CPS and charter networks can continue to invest in principals. CPS released a new School Leader Compensation System, which will increase principal salaries and offer new ways to recognize and reward their contributions to their schools and to students. In addition, CPS committed to releasing budgets for all district-operated and charter schools no later than March 2018, offering principals much more time to plan with their school communities for the year ahead.

Corporations and philanthropies can join The Fund in doubling down on principal quality. In 2018, The Fund will launch a $26.5 million effort to build the systems required to make principal quality an enduring aspect of Chicago’s school improvement strategy. Fund programs will impact more than 600 principals and 370,000 students, ensuring that every student in Chicago’s public schools is learning under the leadership of a strong principal and talented educator team.

About the report

This report presents information on all new Chicago public school principals for the 2017-18 school year (principals with a starting date after January 1, 2017). The Fund will continue to update these numbers annually to track Chicago’s progress.


The Fund would like to thank our entire team, especially Ariela Abrevaya, Anne Filer, Nelson Gerew, Joan Lee and Lauren B. Rapp for their contributions to this report. We are especially grateful to Zipporah Hightower, Natalia Szymczak and the Department of Principal Quality at Chicago Public Schools for their continued support of principals and high-quality data.