Experts: Chicago leads nation in leveraging principal quality as key driver for public school improvement

CME Group Foundation makes $1 million grant to support ongoing principal quality efforts CHICAGO – October 23, 2017 – At a City Club of Chicago luncheon today, Chicago’s Principal Priority – Leading the Nation, a panel of local and national experts, moderated by The Chicago Public Education Fund (The Fund) President and CEO Heather Y. Anichini, discussed how Chicago’s unique focus on principal quality is leading the nation. Over the past four years, as the number of strong principals in Chicago’s public schools has increased, so have student outcomes – as evidenced by increases in both reading and math scores for elementary school students and significant improvements in freshman on-track and graduation rates at the high school level. “Principals are truly the instructional leaders of our schools and one of the key factors behind the improvements we’re seeing for all of Chicago’s public school students – improvements that are outpacing national averages,” said Dr. Janice Jackson, Chief Education Officer of Chicago Public Schools, a panelist at Monday’s luncheon. “Whether it’s an international figure like Bill Gates praising principals’ transformational use of data to drive outcomes or national education experts like Stanford Prof. Sean Reardon pointing to Chicago as a model for success, we know that cultivating and retaining strong leaders is essential to our progress.” Dr. LeViis Haney, currently in his sixth year as principal of Joseph Lovett Elementary in Chicago’s Austin neighborhood, is an example of the difference a strong school leader can make. Over the past two years, the school – which serves a student population that is more than 90 percent low-income – has seen math scores move from the 34th percentile nationally to the 98th and reading scores from 73rd to 98th, earning a Level 1+ rating, the highest performance rating for a Chicago Public School. “Today, when you look at student academic growth in public schools across the city, every metric improves with strong school leadership,” said Anichini. “We must continue to prioritize strategies and investments that recruit and retain strong school leaders.” The Fund also released its annual Principal Engagement Survey data today, which indicates an increase in principal retention from 81 percent in 2015-2016 to 85 percent in 2016-2017, despite a slight decrease in satisfaction. The survey also found a 13 percent increase in principals who indicated that CPS and/or their charter management organization communicates a vision that is motivating – a response that increased to 52 percent from 39 percent last year. The past three years of insights gained from this survey have identified school funding, compliance requirements, compensation, communication and personalized professional development as key issues impacting the retention of high quality principals. “Financial issues have been a real stressor for principals. Thankfully, we have seen progress through statewide school funding reform and are working to build on that stability,” said Dr. Haney, who also participated on Monday’s panel. “It’s evident that the District is working to respond to the challenges and issues identified by public school leaders. In addition, participation in The Fund’s Summer Design Program and Professional Learning Communities have allowed me to continue to grow professionally and as a leader for my school.” The Fund has been focused on increasing the number of top public school principals in Chicago since 2013 by supporting and enabling talented school leaders through unique and robust professional learning opportunities. A recent study by Boston Consulting Group confirmed that principals who participated in The Fund’s programs, like Dr. Haney, are 60 percent more likely to develop into high-performing principals and 15 percent more likely to remain high-performing upon receiving that designation.   CME Group Foundation Executive Director Kassie Davis, a panelist at today’s discussion, announced a $1 million anchor commitment to support The Fund’s next phase of work – an investment that will help The Fund make permanent the principal quality gains of the last decade and serve more than 200 principals and their teacher teams annually. “In supporting principals, we are playing an active role in preparing the future generation of Chicago’s leaders,” said Davis, who also serves as a member of The Fund’s board of directors. “We’ve seen firsthand the benefits of our previous support of The Fund’s work. Principals are clearly making an impact for our schools and students. The CME Group Foundation is proud to announce this new investment in our support of the Fund’s work to drive principal quality and accelerate innovative efforts in our public schools.” Panelist Anne Wicks, Director of Education Reform at the George W. Bush Institute, emphasized that Chicago is a national leader in its system-wide approach to principal quality. The Bush Institute works to improve schools through data and research with a focus on accountability and school leadership, and Wicks particularly applauded Chicago’s strategy to build a strong pipeline of school leaders. In her comments, Wicks emphasized that, “school districts, like CPS, cannot do this work alone. Strong partnerships with organizations like The Fund, the Chicago Principal Partnership, and the Chicago Leadership Collaborative are key. In addition, investments like the one announced today by The CME Group Foundation are absolutely essential to ensuring progress around principal quality continues.” The Fund and CPS invite everyone to show their appreciation of Chicago’s public school principals by thanking a principal on social media using the hashtag #PrincipalPrideCHI, signing a digital ‘thank you’ card by texting “principal” to 39492 or visiting, where you can also submit a short video thanking a principal.

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