Chicago Leads

The future of schools is evolving. The time for bold leadership is now.


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Our Next Phase



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Chicago Leads is a $50 million effort to strengthen and support leadership in public schools.

We envision a public school system where all of Chicago’s students have access to strong, stable school leadership. Today, achieving that vision is more important than ever before.

Why Leadership?

More than 25 years of data connects student learning to strong school leadership. Motivated by that research, The Fund team has partnered with exceptional educators, civic leaders, and the philanthropic community to redefine what it means to lead a school in our city for more than two decades.

Why Chicago?

Chicago’s students exemplify this connection. That’s because Chicago is one of the best cities in the nation for strong principals. Chicago principals have more control over budget, curriculum, and staffing decisions than their peers in other major cities. Prior to COVID-19, elementary students in Chicago Public Schools saw annual gains in test scores that were almost three times the average in public schools nationwide. Research from Stanford University has shown that students in Chicago were learning six years of content in five years of school.

At the same time students were outperforming their national peers academically, evidence of Chicago’s leadership strengths emerged. The 5Essentials is a research-based measure used by every school district in the state and published by the Illinois State Board of Education. Using this measure, Chicago’s principals were more likely to be strong or very strong, when compared to their peers across the state.

Why Now?

The connection between strong leadership and student academic outcomes is clear. Chicago Leads is an effort to re-accelerate learning in the wake of COVID-19 by doubling down on strong leadership in all of Chicago’s public schools.

From now through 2030, Chicago Leads will enable The Fund team to invest $50 million in Chicago’s strongest aspiring and sitting principals. Our support will foster innovative leadership in more than 600 school communities and contribute to an enduring culture of excellence citywide.

School Year Instruction

Leverage Our Strengths

We invest in data-driven strategies that increase the number of strong leaders in Chicago’s public schools. Our program, policy, and partnership efforts are designed to meet leaders where they are, to accelerate their growth, and to enable their retention. Through Chicago Leads, we will directly serve more than 300 educators a year and invest in policy changes that positively impact leaders citywide.

“In my time as a school leader, what has become clear is that large change happens in small structures.”

-Principal Jennifer Dixon
Palmer Elementary School

Create space for bold, new ideas.

Every day, our talented principal partners innovate and discover new ways to advance educational opportunities for their students. Through Chicago Leads, we will amplify their voices and harness their talent to reimagine public education in Chicago.

The Fund Chicago

Remain rooted in our values.

The Fund is committed to advancing diversity, equity, inclusion, and anti-racism in all our work. We are a trusted partner of Chicago’s district, charter, philanthropic, and civic communities. Through Chicago Leads, we will raise dollars efficiently and invest resources strategically and transparently.

Our Goals

In partnership with educators and Chicago Public Schools, we are advancing big ideas as a part of Chicago Leads.

We are doubling down on the programs that we know develop strong leaders, and that help them innovate and stay.

We are expanding our policy work to catalyze and advance new ideas, especially around leadership pipeline and transition.

The Fund’s influence and impact can serve as a national model that will have far-reaching effects beyond Chicago.

Now through 2030, we will:

Expand innovation programs to catalyze student achievement.

We will continue to serve more than 300 educators a year through our programming, unlocking school-level innovation and fueling strong teaching and learning.

Diversify and strengthen the principal leadership pipeline.

We will provide tangible resources – from financial support to mentorship – that remove barriers for strong teachers who want to pursue the principalship, with an emphasis on supporting strong Black and Latino/a/x leaders.

Promote long-term stability for school communities.

We will establish the nation’s first succession-ready standard, ensuring students and educators continue to thrive during leadership transitions.

Our Goals

Featured Example

Strong Leaders Change Lives

Rodolfo Rojas

“The Fund’s investment in me has been essential to my student’s progress.

The Fund makes me feel supported so I can focus on a principal’s real job: helping students and teachers grow.

Reading attainment chart shows an increase in students reading above the national average from 2014 - 2018.

Rodolfo’s Engagement


PLC Leader and Executive Principle


PLC Leader


SDP Participant and PLC Leader


Spoke about principal leadership at the Center for American Progress in D.C.


Summer Design Programs (SDP) participant and Chicago Principal Fellowship fellow.


Professional Learning Community (PLC) participant.


Educator Advisory Committee Member

*Peer schools are those within 5 percentage points on NWEA reading and math attainment to Everett in SY2012-2013.

Our Impact

Our programs make leaders stronger and our policy efforts keep them in their role longer.

Fund 1


$10 Million

5% of Chicago principals participated
Fund 1 established a higher bar of quality for teachers and principals through seed investments in organizations that recruit, train, and support talented leaders for Chicago's public schools.

Fund 2


$15 Million

15% of Chicago principals participated
Fund 2 expanded the number of talented educators in Chicago’s schools through investments in new certification and leadership development programs.

Fund 3


$20 Million

25% of Chicago principals participated
Fund 3 aligned evaluation systems for teachers, principals, and schools through initiatives that highlighted the impact of strong leadership.

Fund 4


$25 Million

50% of Chicago principals participated
Fund 4 more than doubled the number of strong Chicago principals through program and policy investments that unlocked educator innovation and retained top talent.

Fund 5


$25 Million

70% of Chicago principals participated
Fund 5 deepened and broadened the commitment to leadership as a lever for improving public schools, launching both a local collaborative and a national community of practice focused on principals, and expanding our programming to serve more leaders citywide.

Get Involved

We envision a public school system where all of Chicago’s students have access to strong, stable school leadership. Making this vision a reality requires all of us working together.

The Fund’s independent Board of Directors and nimble investment model allow us to positively influence educator quality citywide. More than 80% of our funding is “general operating,” meaning funders give dollars to be used where they are needed most. In turn, The Fund is transparent about where those dollars go and the impact that they have.

Your support – alongside investment from philanthropic, civic, and corporate communities – will ensure more schools are led by strong, diverse leaders with the resources they need to inspire transformative education.

Investors in this work

We are grateful for the generous supporters of the Chicago Leads campaign.

Crown Family Philanthropies
Hobson Lucas Family Foundation
Finnegan Foundation
Joyce Foundation
McCormick Foundation
Stone Foundation
Ken Griffin
Brent & Katie Gledhill

A complete list of funders can be found here, and donor resources are available here.

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