An Open Letter to the New Administration

By admin | 01.26.2017   |  

Dear President Trump and Secretary DeVos,

Congratulations on your new roles. As you begin to lay out your education agenda, The Fund team and I wanted to take this opportunity to share our hopes for a successful term with you.

Your statements on the campaign trail indicate school choice will be a priority for your administration. School choice, at its core, is about quality. After all, what is choice without quality schools from which to choose?

We, too, believe that every child should have access to a quality education. But we encourage you to consider the key to reaching this goal: Research and our experience tell us that quality public schools require great leadership.

Among school-related impacts on student learning, principal leadership is second only to teaching and accounts for 25 percent of the total school influence on a child’s academic performance. This is because – like the leaders in all industries – principals are a major contributor to the retention or turnover of their teachers. Our best principals keep great teachers, even through times of resource reduction.

What’s more, principal leadership is a cost-effective investment. On average, a principal impacts 550 students and 30 teachers. Their leadership shapes overall school quality, a student’s learning experience, and whether or not great teachers stay. In fact, we know 96 percent of teachers rate supportive leadership as a critical factor in their decision to stay at a school.

Put simply: No great school exists without great leadership. As such, we implore you to prioritize principal leadership as a critical component to quality choice.

Chicago provides a great example for creating the conditions in which principals can lead. Unlike many other cities, Chicago principals have significant authority to hire teachers for their schools, more flexibility to differentiate the support they provide to teachers, and the ability to develop both a budget and school schedule that best meet the needs of their schools and communities.

Even with limited resources, Chicago’s public schools demonstrate why these conditions matter. In the most recent National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP), known as “the nation’s report card,” CPS was one of only three large urban districts to show growth on all four tested subjects. Notably, CPS eighth grade students achieved the highest growth in math nationwide. In addition, CPS’ graduation rate continues to rise, up to 74 percent from 57 percent in 2011.

Clearly, Chicago principals are making a difference in students’ lives.

We’ve highlighted just a few examples of great school leadership on our blog, and we share our programmatic work to inspire other cities to pursue similar work. Recently, Washington D.C. and Texas announced interesting initiatives, demonstrating the growing momentum around investing in school leadership as a powerful and efficient way to grow quality public schools.

We hope that you will recognize the opportunity before you and dedicate dollars and time toward our country’s public school leaders. We’re here to support you in your efforts. After all, we know that if you succeed, our students and our country will benefit for generations to come.

Heather Y. Anichini
President & CEO
The Chicago Public Education Fund