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We’re always asking: What’s next for our school leaders and students? Since 2000, we have piloted efforts with the potential to teach all of us something new about school leadership, student learning and teacher development.

Our pilot programs focus on building capacity in our highest-need schools, harnessing the expertise of Chicago’s top leaders, teaching us about providing strong instruction for our youngest students and preparing the principals of tomorrow.


In-Role Supports

South Side Education Alliance (SSEA)

Program Objective: Improvement

The South Side Education Alliance (SSEA) aims to coordinate layered supports to enable accelerated school improvement in CPS Networks 9 and 12. SSEA delivers multiple supports in a single package, including instructional leadership, trauma-informed practice, family and community engagement, time management and teacher development.

In August 2018, we launched the pilot in collaboration with four program providers. These partners provide supports that align with principal, teacher, student and community needs in several Bronzeville/South Lakefront and Greater Stony Island schools. We believe providing these schools with multiple, layered supports will both accelerate improvement and create a more significant impact than is possible with each program provider operating independently.

In 2020-21, this two-year pilot program was extended into a third year to support schools during the COVID-19 pandemic. SSEA supports will mirror SDP supports.

  • Fulcrum Education Solutions is a team of former principals that provides customized coaching and support focused on developing strong instructional leadership through the use of instructional systems and building the capacity of the school’s various instructional leaders.
  • National SAM Innovation Project is a team of former principals that provides a unique set of time management tools and regular coaching to support principals to maximize their instructional leadership capacity and more effectively distribute leadership.

Executive Principal

Program Objective: Improvement

The Executive Principal Program, funded by the Schwartz-Ward Family Foundation and operated in partnership with the Department of Principal Quality at Chicago Public Schools (CPS), is an innovative, multi-year mentorship between some of Chicago’s top leaders (Executive Principals) and rising stars (Partner Principals).

Partner and Executive Principals are thoughtfully matched based on their strength areas and the Partner Principals’ aspirations for their schools. Throughout the school year, Executive Principals provide up to 300 hours of coaching and mentoring, including weekly school visits and observations, collaborative planning time and joint attendance at professional development events. Participants take part in a Professional Learning Community with Chief Education Officer LaTanya McDade. Each pair receives a joint stipend for innovative professional development for new work at the Partner Principal’s school. Executive Principals are also awarded a leadership stipend for their service.

Executive Principals collaborate closely with Partner Principals’ supervisors to support their overall development plan and to share performance feedback. The 2020-21 cohort includes seven principal pairs from across the city. 

Tegy, Inc.

Program Objective: Improvement

Tegy Inc. is a national school design firm that specializes in effective school scheduling practices. Tegy teaches school teams how to leverage their most precious asset: time. In recognition of the scheduling challenges imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, The Fund is currently partnering with CPS’ Office of Network Support (ONS) to scale Tegy’s resources to all district-managed elementary schools. In addition, Tegy will directly coach around 100 schools to adapt their remote, hybrid or in-person schedules to better meet their students’ needs. Tegy will also train network support staff on scheduling best practices and disseminate universal tools, models and resources. In 2020-21, Tegy will work with up to 108 principal-led teams and 13 network teams.

Harvard Graduate School of Education: Leading Change (HGSE)

Program Objective: Improvement

The Harvard Graduate School of Education and Harvard Business School collaborate to offer Leading Change, which is a four-week online course in adaptive leadership within their Certificate in School Management and Leadership. This school year, the Fund is sponsoring a cohort of principals from across the city to participate, helping equip them with the skills they need to drive school change and establish priorities with diverse stakeholders to improve practice. In 2020-21, 50 principals participated, with half of participants taking the course in August and the other half in October.

Relay School of Education: Instructional Leadership Workshops (Relay GSE)

Program Objective: Improvement

The Relay Graduate School of Education is an accredited higher-education organization focused on teacher and principal preparation. This year, The Fund is partnering with Relay GSE to deliver virtual workshops to principals and their teams. The sessions will kick off in December 2020, and teach school teams how to use new tools and strategies to deliver high-quality remote instruction which bolsters student engagement. In 2020-21, up to 80 principals will participate.

Pipeline and Principal Preparation

APs Rising

Program Objective: Talent

Assistant principals (APs) are not only critical leaders in our schools, but also the primary pipeline of leadership talent into the principal role. In 2019, The Chicago Principal Partnership (The Partnership) and partners at Chicago Public Schools, including the Department of Principal Quality, launched Lead with CPS, a new framework for leadership development from teacher to senior district leader.

As a result, CPS, The Fund and The Partnership created APs Rising, a suite of targeted development opportunities designed to support Chicago’s talented pool of assistant principals who are interested in future principal roles within the district. APs Rising includes the following programs:

  • Leadership Bridge Program | This program includes on-the-job professional development for 27 AP and principal pairs. Through individualized coaching sessions from school leadership experts at New Leaders, University of Illinois at Chicago and Accelerate Institute, APs work in close collaboration with their principals to prepare for their future role.
  • Aspiring Principal Professional Learning Communities | In 2020-21, three experienced CPS principals will lead 36 APs through nine learning sessions to develop practical knowledge about how to become a principal. An additional 14 APs are participating in The Fund’s PLCs for principals, which cover a broader range of school leadership topics and are detailed on the previous pages.
  • AP Resident Principal Program | Although this program is run independently by the CPS Department of Principal Quality, it is the final component of APs Rising. AP Residents serve for 12 to 18 months in schools that need new talent the most. The program currently serves one resident and will launch an additional cohort for the 2021-22 school year.

APs Rising is made possible through the generous support of Crown Family Philanthropies and The Crown Pipeline Innovation Fund.

Invest in Chicago's Principals

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Support Our Work

We aim to serve more than 600 principals and 360,000 students by 2023, with an emphasis on the schools that most need support.

Celebrate School Leaders

Every October, school communities, city officials and corporate leaders join together to lift up the great work of principals and their APs.