The Right Match:

A Strong Principal
in Every Public School

2016 School Leadership Report

About The Fund

The Chicago Public Education Fund (The Fund) is a nonprofit organization working to increase the number of great public schools in Chicago by supporting the talented principals who lead them. Our current efforts seek to make Chicago the best city in the country to lead a public school, creating the conditions that enable the city’s educators to reimagine teaching and learning. We recognize and appreciate that our aspirations for principal leadership are shared by others in Chicago. We are proud to be a founding member of The Chicago Principal Partnership, a newly-established citywide effort committed to ensuring a strong principal in every public school.

Visit for more information.

119 Public Schools Started the 2016–17 School Year with a New Principal.1

The School's Name

247 W 23rd Pl
Chicago, IL 60616

2015-16 Principal:
Principal Name
2016-17 Principal:
Principal Name
Multiple Turnover:
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

All demographic information provided about the schools on this map is based on data from the 2015–16 school year.

Executive Summary

This report has one central premise: keeping great principals starts with hiring the right principal. Even as Chicago fights to retain principals long enough to make student learning and school culture gains more permanent, we must recognize that some principal attrition is inevitable.

More than 70,000 students started the 2016–17 school year with a new principal, and at least 60 schools will need a new principal each year for the foreseeable future.2

The stakes are high: No great public school exists without great leadership.3 In fact, variation in principal quality accounts for about 25 percent of a school’s total impact on student learning.4 Yet, more than four out of every 10 public school principals in Chicago leave before they begin their fifth year.5 To keep great principals, we have to make the right match from the start.

How can we help schools hire the right principal?
Anticipate Leadership Needs

119 schools across Chicago started the 2016–17 school year with a new principal.

Anticipating the number and location of potential openings several years in advance is possible, if available data are used well. Communicating likely vacancies sooner and more accurately will allow for targeted recruitment and more effective transitions.

Cultivate Talent to Meet Needs

43 percent of principals do not have a plan to identify a successor before they leave their school.6

Developing aspiring principals from a pool of talented educators is critical to meeting individual school needs. Making information about the skills and expertise of these aspiring principals available will enable more tailored training experiences and better matches.

Make the Right Match

At least 37 schools started the 2016–17 school year with their second or third principal in four years.

When an effective match is not made, repeated principal transitions can negatively impact school culture and student learning. Equipping those who make hiring decisions with the tools they need to select the right principal from the start will lead to less turnover.

We must work to match aspiring principals to individual school needs and ensure students experience the positive benefits of strong, stable leadership over time. When hiring and succession planning are well-managed, schools can maintain or accelerate positive culture and student learning gains, even when leadership changes. When transitions are not planned in advance, these same success indicators often dip, sliding for as long as two years after a principal leaves.7

Who makes hiring decisions in Chicago?

Three entities are authorized to hire a Chicago public school principal.8
Local School Councils

The Chicago School Reform Act of 1988 established Local School Councils (LSCs) to give communities more influence over school governance. LSC members select the principal, evaluate the principal annually, and decide whether to renew the principal’s contract every four years. They also approve the school budget and help draft the state-required school improvement plan. LSCs include six parents, two teachers, one non-teaching staff member, two community members, the principal and a student (high school only). The public elects parent and community members every two years; the most recent election was held in the spring of 2016. The Chicago Board of Education appoints teacher and staff representatives following a poll of all full-time staff members at each school.9

The Leadership of Chicago Public Schools

The Illinois School Code establishes that the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Chicago Public Schools (CPS) can appoint an interim principal when a school has a history of failing to meet established performance standards. In addition, the CEO has the power to appoint an interim principal when the LSC is unable to select a new principal. This generally occurs when fewer than seven LSC members vote to approve the selection of a new principal, either because the LSC is split on a hiring decision or because the LSC has insufficient membership to meet the seven-member threshold established by law.10

Charter Boards

The Illinois Charter Schools Law establishes charter schools as public schools where new, innovative and more flexible ways of educating children within the public school system may be developed. In Chicago, most charter schools are authorized by the Chicago Board of Education and governed by nonprofit boards. These boards generally select and evaluate their principals and approve their schools’ budgets. Some board members offer contracts of varying lengths to their principals. Others use more informal methods or delegate hiring authority to staff members of the Charter Management Organization (CMO). The boards have their own operating by-laws and generally consist of leaders from the education, business, legal, civic and nonprofit sectors.11

What Potential Paths Exist for Educators Pursuing The Principal Role in Chicago?

Teaching and leadership training are common across many paths; other experiences vary based on school type and needs.12
Three Examples of the Many Potential Paths to Becoming a Principal

(To learn more about the terms on this page, click the + sign after any of the featured words below.)


Recommendation 1:Anticipate Leadership Needs

Share accurate data with all stakeholders to improve recruitment and to enable more effective transitions.

Organizations that thrive during leadership transitions follow a common pattern: They anticipate the opening, recruit or promote the right candidate, and foster effective leadership succession – sometimes years in advance.13

School systems can benefit from the same basic pattern, beginning with anticipating leadership needs. There were 119 principal vacancies in the 2015–16 school year, and they arose in all kinds of schools – highly-rated and struggling schools, elementary and high schools, district and charter schools. In most cases, accurately predicting specific vacancies more than a few months in advance proved challenging, limiting the number of planned transitions in schools across Chicago.

The Fund is partnering with CPS and others to improve the accuracy and availability of citywide principal transition projections. Early analysis suggests that schools with a history of principal turnover, schools led by a retirement-eligible principal, and LSC-managed schools led by a principal with an expiring contract are all at higher risk of principal transition than schools without these factors.

Assembling this data is just a start. Possible openings need to be predicted citywide several years in advance to maximize transition planning. The information also needs to be shared with more stakeholders to ensure that the pool of candidates more closely meets actual school needs in a given year. Both principal supervisors and principal preparation programs in Chicago report a willingness to cultivate and recruit talent to better match these needs, especially if those needs are clearly communicated in advance.

“For well over a decade, New Leaders has worked closely with CPS to recruit, train and support high-quality leaders,” says Ana Martínez, former Chicago charter school principal and current executive director of New Leaders, a founding partner in the Chicago Leadership Collaborative. “More in-depth and reliable data on the potential leadership needs in CPS will only serve to strengthen this partnership and ensure we prepare candidates for the specific challenges ahead.”

Sharing predicted openings with key partners well in advance of a transition will allow Chicago’s public schools to take advantage of what other organizations already know: Planning for leadership transition increases an organization’s ability to recruit the right candidate and to effectively manage the transition.


Up to 20 percent of the 516 district schools (103) experience principal transition in a typical year.

The CPS Department of Principal Quality (DPQ) works to improve Chicago’s management of those principal transitions. In recent years, DPQ launched programs and initiatives designed to ensure that there are high-quality candidates to fill the large number of openings annually.

“Great principals are key to great schools,” says Zipporah Hightower, former district principal and current executive director of DPQ. “Our office is committed to enabling our communities to choose talented, well-prepared candidates.”

To advance this goal, CPS was among the first districts in the nation to formally partner with principal preparation programs committed to meeting the specific needs of an urban public school system. Launched in 2012, the new initiative was called the Chicago Leadership Collaborative (CLC). It began with four founding principal preparation programs and now includes 10 programs.

CPS and the CLC focus on selecting candidates with experiences that are in high demand and on providing those candidates with year-long residency experiences that cement critical leadership skills.

The CLC seems to be having a positive impact. In the 2015–16 school year, 100 percent of CLC residents (43) who entered the eligibility process passed. Moreover, 36 percent of principals (31 out of 86) hired in district schools for the 2016–17 school year were CLC graduates, including 26 in elementary schools and five in high schools. Critically, 35 percent of these newly-hired principals (11 out of 31) serve in Level 2 or 3 schools – those most in need of strong leadership.15

CPS and the CLC continue to refine the data and feedback loop required to anticipate and meet Chicago’s needs. Improvements in the year ahead will allow for even more targeted recruitment of candidates, strategic placement of principal residents and changes to training programs that reflect CPS’ evolving priorities.

“Chicago’s CLC has the potential to set a national standard,” says Steve Tozer, founding coordinator of the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Urban Education Leadership program, a founding member of the CLC. “I get calls every month from other programs who want to learn from Chicago’s model in order to improve training and collaboration in their cities and states.”

The Noble Network of Charter Schools began in 1999 as a single high school in Chicago and grew into a network that educates 12,000 students in 18 schools in grades 6–12. All of the schools in the Noble Network consistently rank among the highest-performing public schools in Chicago for student growth and achievement.

In 17 years, Noble has hired 32 principals. Eighteen have been founders of their schools, and 14 have been successors to previous principals.26

For Noble, anticipating leadership needs flows naturally from an initial investment in finding the right match and cultivating talent. Noble dedicates significant time to recruitment and selection of educators at every level – including teachers and principals whose experience and skills are aligned to Noble’s mission.

In recent years, creating internal development opportunities for rising leaders became a central strategy for cultivating principal talent. Of the principals currently leading Noble schools, all but two were developed within Noble. This experience helps ensure leader and school success from the start. In the 2015–16 school year, four of the six principals at Noble campuses who exceeded the network’s average for student ACT cohort growth were successor principals who previously worked as teachers or administrators within the organization.27

The key to planning ahead for leadership turnover within Noble is to limit surprises. By maintaining clear lines of communication around achievement of performance goals and career aspirations, Noble leaders can anticipate principal needs well in advance of someone’s departure.

“Our principals have clear performance goals for their schools, receive regular data reports and are in constant communication with their supervisors and network partners regarding their progress and future plans,” says Eric Thomas, assistant superintendent at the Noble Network. “The feedback loop allows us to know well in advance where there may be a vacancy and to plan ahead for a transition.”

This kind of advance planning has helped ensure that Noble maintains its record of high-performance, even in times of transition.

For example, in 2014, Ellen Metz succeeded William Olsen as the third principal of Noble Street College Prep, Noble’s original campus. Ellen joined the school as a teacher in 2005 and served as assistant principal for seven years prior to taking over as principal. Through the transition, the campus retained more than 88 percent of its teachers and was rated at least a Level 1 on CPS’ School Quality Rating Policy (SQRP).28

Recommendation 2:Cultivate Talent to Meet Needs

Identify promising aspiring principals and prepare them to lead in the schools that need them most.

Organizations that succeed during leadership transitions focus on identifying and developing leaders with the potential to successfully take on management roles.16

Widely considered a national model, Gwinnett County Public Schools (GCPS), the largest public school district in Georgia, is proof that this same approach can work in public schools. In 2004, GCPS projected that it would have more principal vacancies than high-quality candidates through at least 2010.17

To reverse this trend, GCPS leaders designed a Leadership Tracking System (LTS) to help gain insights into their pipeline and projected needs. These identified needs drive recruitment and inform the training and leadership experiences offered to aspiring principals. The resulting talent cultivation leads to student success.18 In the 2015–16 school year, GCPS students out-performed the state average in Georgia overall in all grades and subject areas.19

Lessons from both non-education organizations and GCPS can help Chicago build on its current talent cultivation efforts and develop a larger and more robust pipeline. Although 43 percent of Chicago principal respondents (193 out of 451) report no plan for succession, the majority of newly-hired district principals already serve as school administrators. In fact, 56 percent of those hired for the 2016–17 school year (48 out of 86) were most recently assistant principals, a position that lends itself to job-embedded coaching and preparation if a succession plan is in place.

Current principals also report an interest in supporting the development of aspiring principals. More than two-thirds of all principal respondents (306 out of 452) report that they spend time coaching staff toward becoming principals – development that could be targeted toward known needs if information about likely openings could be shared.

In the coming year, The Fund will partner with CPS and others to improve existing systems for identifying aspiring principals, and to provide talented educators with the job-embedded learning experiences they need to meet the anticipated needs of Chicago’s public schools in the years ahead.


Founded in 1994, the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) is a network of charter schools serving 80,000 students in 20 states and the District of Columbia. The KIPP Chicago network includes six schools, serving 1,600 students in grades K–8.

To meet the talent demands of a growing number of schools, KIPP develops its educators through the KIPP School Leaders Program (KSLP). Launched in 2000 with the Fisher Fellowship, a yearlong program that trains individuals to found and lead new KIPP schools, KSLP now provides opportunities for all roles along the leadership pipeline – from operations managers, to assistant principals, to regional leaders.

Locally, KIPP combines national KSLP experiences with a tiered sequence of leadership roles to help recruit, support and keep talented educators. Half of the current assistant principals in KIPP Chicago schools have participated in a KSLP program, and all of the current KIPP Chicago principals completed one of the programs. KSLP participation is augmented by local coaching and careful development of teaching and administrative talent.

“In Chicago, KSLP allows my team to be confident that we have the leaders we need at all levels,” says April Goble, executive director of KIPP Chicago. “The programs also offer an attractive recruiting tool because new teachers know that they will have opportunities to take on more responsibility and grow professionally, and aspiring leaders outside the network have a clear path to join us.”

Ellen Sale’s story serves as an example of how KIPP’s unique approach to talent cultivation works to prepare educators for success as a principal. A former teacher and 2012 Fisher Fellow, Ellen founded and continues to lead KIPP Bloom College Prep, a middle school serving more than 300 students in Englewood.

Under Ellen’s leadership, Bloom was designated a Level 1 school in the 2015–16 school year, in part because of the incredible academic growth achieved by Bloom’s teachers and students. In that same year, students scored in the 98th percentile nationally for growth in math and in the 95th percentile nationally for growth in reading.21 Ellen recognizes the role KSLP played in helping her lead a school where students and educators thrive.

“The Fisher Fellowship was attractive to me because I was ready to take on another challenge but recognized that I needed to develop new leadership skills in order to do that,” Ellen says. “The program gave me on-the-ground experience that was invaluable to successfully founding a new KIPP school.”

Kenwood Academy is a neighborhood high school in the Kenwood community designated as Level 1+ in the 2015–2016 school year. The school serves approximately 1,800 students in grades 7–12.

The situation at Kenwood was more challenging in 2005 when Elizabeth (Liz) Kirby, currently Chief of School Strategy and Planning at CPS, took on the principal role. The five-year cohort graduation rate was 64.1 percent and the freshman on-track rate was 63.4 percent.29

Kenwood’s success in the last decade certainly began with Liz’s strong leadership throughout her six-and-a-half years as principal. Just as importantly, Kenwood students have maintained and surpassed these academic gains since she transitioned in 2012.

“In 2011, after more than six years at Kenwood, I recognized the need to strengthen instructional practices to ensure that students not only enrolled in college, but completed college. We’d moved the graduation rate over five points and had increased the freshman on-track rate to over 70 percent, but there was more to do,” Liz says. “The next level of growth required more collaboration across academic departments and more targeted coaching of teachers to embed strong instructional practices into the curriculum. We made good progress, but it was time for a new leader to move Kenwood to the next level.”

Liz began looking for an aspiring principal who possessed both the instructional skills to push the school academically and the experience to manage the unique dynamics of a neighborhood high school with strong community partnerships situated near a prominent university.

Greg Jones, then the assistant principal at Westinghouse High School, met those requirements. “I knew Greg was looking for opportunities,” Liz says. “I also knew he was ready, because Janice Jackson, who was then principal at Westinghouse and currently serves as Chief Education Officer at CPS, was skilled in cultivating both instructional talent and political awareness.”

The leadership skills Greg built with Janice’s support, in addition to his success leading a district-wide curriculum development project, showed Liz that Greg’s specific skill set met Kenwood’s emerging needs.

Seeing the opportunity for a strong match, Liz engaged her Local School Council (LSC) and Greg in conversations about what Kenwood needed and how to make a smooth transition. As a result of their thoughtful planning and engagement, the LSC selected Greg as Kenwood’s principal in March of 2012, allowing Greg the time he needed to start the 2012–13 school year on firm footing.

Four years later, the results of the smooth leadership transition are clear. Kenwood had a five-year cohort graduation rate of 84.6 percent in the 2015–16 school year, more than an eight-point increase since Greg became principal.30 The freshman on-track rate has also improved from 71.5 percent in the 2011–12 school year to 94.2 percent in the 2015–16 school year. The school culture also remains strong: Kenwood is currently rated Well-Organized on the 5Essentials survey.31 The LSC renewed Greg’s contract earlier this year.

Kenwood’s leadership transition from Liz to Greg is just one example of the success a school can experience when talent is cultivated and recruited to meet specific needs.

Recommendation 3:Make the Right Match

Equip LSCs and charter boards with the tools they need to select the right principals for their schools.

Organizations that successfully hire and retain new leaders engage in a thorough selection process to identify the right match among a robust pool of candidates. Those in charge of hiring for these organizations understand the competencies that matter most in successfully doing the job, clearly communicate those requirements to candidates and assess a number of candidates against those measures. When done right, an organization’s performance improves, and the new leader stays.22

As in other industries, finding and keeping the right principal is key to improving educational outcomes in schools. Principal transitions can negatively affect student learning and school culture for up to two years, and multiple transitions in a short period of time can compound these challenges.23

Too many schools in Chicago face the reality of frequent transition. One hundred nineteen schools started the 2016–17 school year with a new principal; with at least 37 of those schools welcoming their second or third principal in four years.

To slow turnover, LSC and charter board members need need more tools and training to make the right match the first time. Interviews with LSC and charter board members suggest they want sample job descriptions and interview questions, selection rubrics, and hiring timelines. LSC and charter board members also report a desire to connect with others who have recently made a successful hire.

In addition to supports that encourage more consistency in hiring practices from school to school, many LSC and charter board members report a need for more visibility into the pool of qualified candidates for open principal positions. A lack of visibility often leads LSC and charter board members to conclude that there are not enough qualified candidates for the open position, even in cases where other qualified candidates exist.

A new digital platform was recently launched to better meet the needs of those who hire principals in Chicago. allows LSC and charter board members to search among a broader pool of candidates and to access basic hiring tools. It also allows aspiring principals to more efficiently search open roles and to highlight their most relevant experience when they apply to a particular school.

The website will grow to provide a number of other resources, including additional selection supports for LSC and charter board members. Providing the tools necessary to select the right principal is a critical first step toward keeping Chicago’s best principals in the schools that need them the most.


In the spring of 2014, the LSC at Von Steuben Metropolitan High School (Von Steuben) sought to hire a new principal for the 2014–15 school year. Oscar Santana, the LSC chair and a parent of two Von Steuben students, led the principal hiring effort. In order to ensure a strong match, LSC members knew they needed to establish a clear process to guide their selection and to incorporate the diverse perspectives of all stakeholders involved at every stage.24

Key Activity
What Happened at Von Steuben?
Include critical stakeholders Oscar extended an open invitation to all school staff interested in joining the selection committee, with extra effort to recruit teachers as well as non-academic representatives. Ultimately, the committee consisted of the entire LSC as well as five other teachers and school staff members, including a counselor, a member of the athletic department and the head of the school scholarship program.
Establish a clear process Oscar and the committee members agreed to use the Kaizen approach, a continuous improvement process used in business, in combination with the LSC Reference Guide created by the Office of LSC Relations, to develop a comprehensive selection protocol and find the right principal to meet current needs.
Identify criteria based on need Committee members voted on the top five criteria required for a new principal to be successful. They established previous high school teaching and school administrator experience as non-negotiable criteria.
Narrow the pool Committee members created a rubric and rated 17 applicants. Based on ratings, six applicants were invited to interview.
Determine fit Committee members conducted two rounds of interviews to determine fit and arranged a visit to each applicant’s school. They selected two finalists.
Empower the community to make decisions Committee members invited finalists to share their visions for Von Steuben in two forums attended by more than 200 members of the school community. Forum participants rated each candidate. The LSC used the ratings, as well as input from committee members, to ensure the voice of the school community informed the final decision.
Make the hire The LSC hired Laura LeMone with overwhelming support from the school community. The combination of Laura’s teaching, instructional leadership and assistant principal experience made her the right choice.

Thanks to the thoughtful planning and hard work of the LSC, the selection committee and the Von Steuben community, Laura was hired in time to work with the previous principal to ensure a smooth transition. In fact, after Laura’s first year, Von Steuben improved its rating to Level 1+. Von Steuben was one of only 34 high schools with this distinction in the 2015–16 school year.25

Founded in 2005, Legacy Charter School (Legacy) is an elementary school in the North Lawndale neighborhood. The school serves approximately 500 students in grades K–8 and was designated as Level 1 in the 2015–16 school year. Legacy seeks to educate the whole child, focusing on social and emotional well-being in addition to rigorous academics.

In 2015, the founding principal, Lisa Kenner, officially notified the Board of Directors that she intended to leave at the end of the 2015–16 school year. The announcement was not a surprise; open lines of communication between Lisa and her Board helped her conclude that the time for transition was right.

With no experience hiring a principal other than Lisa, the Board members worked to establish a transparent and inclusive process for identifying and hiring a successor. The Board began their search during the summer of 2015 and had over a year to plan. With significant input from the broader Legacy community, they made a successful offer in April 2016, which allowed for some overlap during the transition.

To manage the principal hiring process, the Board members formed a 10-person search committee. Chaired by two Board members, it included members of the administrative team, teachers and several other Board members. The committee also engaged a consultant to advise them throughout the process. The consultant provided valuable support in managing more than 80 applications and more than 40 phone interviews.

The Board members began by evaluating the school’s strengths and challenges to determine the type of leader Legacy would need to succeed Lisa. This analysis formed the basis of a job description that they shared with teachers and parents for input. Non-negotiable attributes included a strong commitment to social-emotional learning and the ability to engage respectfully with faculty, staff, students and parents. The new principal needed to be a visionary leader with previous experience as a school administrator. Given Chicago’s fiscal challenges, budget management experience was also a high priority.

Using the non-negotiables as a guide, the committee members narrowed the pool to a handful of semi-finalists. Each candidate participated in a half-day site visit, which included classroom observations as well as interviews with Lisa, members of the search committee, teacher leaders and individual teachers. Each candidate also completed two written exercises. The committee members shared reactions after the visits and decided by consensus which candidates should move to the next round.

The committee members invited three finalists for full-day visits, which included meetings with students, the full faculty, parents and the entire Board of Directors. The committee members debriefed with the students, faculty and parents in order to share their input with the full Board. The committee members also spoke at length with the finalists’ personal references.

In the end, the Legacy community welcomed the candidate the Board members selected. “We engaged many members of the Legacy community, including parents, teachers, scholars and administrators, from the start and emphasized the important responsibility of selecting the next principal,” says Susan Lucas, co-chair of the Legacy Board of Directors. “This allowed us to have a smooth transition from our founding principal to our next leader.”

Legacy began the 2016–17 school year with Richard Glass, Jr., at the helm. Richard is an experienced principal from another Chicago charter school. He is familiar with the North Lawndale community and committed to Legacy’s respectful and inclusive style. He engaged directly and warmly with each of the constituencies he met during the interview process. The stability Legacy experienced amongst both students and staff throughout the transition is a testament to the success of the process and sets a promising foundation for the year ahead.


A Partnership to Drive Change

Chicago’s public schools lost 119 principals in the 2015–16 school year, with at least 37 schools experiencing their second or third transition in four years. Turnover remains too high, and leaders across the city are increasing efforts to keep great principals in the schools that need them the most.

Of course, even the most effective retention efforts are insufficient if our goal is to accelerate positive progress in Chicago’s public schools. To accomplish that goal, we must simultaneously grow our ability to successfully transition from an outgoing principal to a new one.

The stakes are high for managing principal transitions. A well-matched principal fosters positive school culture and supports high-quality teaching and learning in every classroom. A less-successful match can exacerbate the dips in school achievement that often accompany a principal transition.

The need is urgent: One in five principal respondents (87 out of 452) is likely to look for a new job within a year.

The burden of running a successful search often falls on LSC and charter board members, many of whom have limited hiring experience., a new site launched by The Chicago Principal Partnership, is one positive step toward providing LSC and charter board members with the tools they need to run a strong selection process.

But finding the right principal match for all of Chicago’s public schools requires more than than support for LSC and charter board members. We also need more transparent data around open roles, more effective supports for aspiring principals and more careful matching of candidate skills to school needs.

Keeping great principals starts with hiring the right principal.

Visit to learn how you can join partners across Chicago in taking action to ensure a strong principal in every public school.

Who Took Our 2016 Survey?

The Fund team designed the third annual Principal Engagement Survey with input from principals and other partners. The National Business Research Institute (NBRI), a nationally-recognized research organization that helps ensure principal confidentiality, administered the survey.

In 2016, 482 principals participated in the survey. This represents a 14 percent increase in the number of respondents, and a corresponding eight percentage point increase in the response rate, over the 423 participants in 2015.

The 2016 respondents represent 73 percent of the 664 public school principals surveyed between May and July of the 2015–16 school year.

482 principals responded out of 664 contacted

Additionally, we interviewed LSC and charter board members – the people who hire principals – to help inform this report.

This report uses Spotlights to feature promising practices at six different organizations and schools in Chicago. Many more examples exist throughout the city.


1Unless otherwise noted, information on principal changes and position openings in district schools compiled from Chicago Public Schools Employee Position Files and Chicago Board of Education Board Actions. Retrieved from [September 1, 2016] and [September 1, 2016]. Information on principal changes and position openings in charter schools compiled from outreach calls and interviews. See Endote 8 for more detail on the schools categorized as “other.”

2See Endnote 1. At least 60 district schools per year have experienced principal changes since 2008.

3Bryk, Anthony S., Penny Bender Sebring, Elaine Allensworth, Stuart Luppescu, and John Q. Easton (2010). Organizing Schools for Improvement: Lessons from Chicago. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

4Louis, Karen S., Kenneth Leithwood, Kyla L. Wahlstrom, and Stephen E. Anderson (July 2010). Learning from Leadership: Investigating the Links to Improved Student Learning. Retrieved from [September 19, 2016].

5See Endnote 1. Compiled from available Chicago Public Schools data for the 2007–08 school year through the 2014–15 school year.

6Information from “principal respondents” referenced throughout this report compiled from The Chicago Public Education Fund’s 2016 Principal Engagement Survey. For more survey information, visit

7Miller, Ashley (2013). Principal Turnover and Student Achievement. Economics of Education Review, 36, 60–72.

8Twenty-two other schools – including contract, Alternative Learning Opportunities Program (ALOP) and Safe schools – have their own hiring entities. Due to space constraints, we did not explore the specific practices of each of these school types for this report. In addition, schools with principals appointed by the leadership of Chicago Public Schools include the 32 district schools managed by the Academy for Urban School Leadership (AUSL).

9Illinois General Assembly Illinois School Code: 105 ILCS 5/34-2.1(a), (d); 105 ILCS 5/34-2.3. Retrieved from​=1005&ChapterID​=17&Seq​Start=183400000&SeqEnd=207600000 [September 21, 2016].

10Illinois General Assembly Illinois School Code: 105 ILCS 5/34-8.3(d)(2); 105 ILCS 5/34-2.2(c); 105 ILCS 5/34-2.3(2). Retrieved from​HArt.+34&ActID=1005&ChapterID=​17&SeqStart=183400000&SeqEnd=207600000 [September 21, 2016].

11Illinois General Assembly Illinois School Code: 105 ILCS 5/27A-2; 105 ILCS 5/27A-5(a), (c), (f), (g); 105 ILCS 5/27A-6(a); 105 ILCS 5/27A-7.10. Retrieved from​50HArt.+27A&ActID=1005&ChapterID=17&SeqStart=166600000&SeqEnd=168700000 [September 21, 2016].

12Principals at 22 other schools – including contract, Alternative Learning Opportunities Program and Safe schools – have their own paths to leadership. Due to space constraints, we did not explore the specific practices of these school types for this report.

13Conger, Jay and Robert M. Fulmer (December 2003). Developing Your Leadership Pipeline. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from [July 20, 2016]. Groysberg, Boris, Nitin Nohria, and Claudio Fernández-Aráoz (May 2009). The Definitive Guide to Recruiting in Good Times and Bad. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from [June 27, 2016].

14Since 2013, Chicago Public Schools has used the School Quality Rating Policy to measure annual school performance. Level 1+ is the highest rating a school can receive; Level 3 indicates a school is in need of intensive support. Information compiled from Chicago Public Schools School Quality Rating Policy. Retrieved from [September 1, 2016] and [September 1, 2016].

15See Endnote 1. Compiled from data gathered from the Chicago Public Schools Department of Principal Quality.

16Conger, Jay and Robert M. Fulmer (December 2003). Developing Your Leadership Pipeline. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from [July 20, 2016]. AonHewitt (2013). Best-in-Class Succession Management: Who Will Take the Baton?. Retrieved from [June 27, 2016].

17The Bush Institute at the George W. Bush Presidential Center (February 2015). Gwinnett County Public Schools: A Systematic Approach to Scaling Effective School Leadership.

18Information about the Leadership Tracking System (LTS) is based on conversations with the Gwinnett County Public Schools (GCPS) Quality-Plus Leader Academy Team. LTS development in GCPS has been supported through funds provided by The Wallace Foundation.

19Gwinnett County Public Schools (July 2016). GCPS students achieve high marks on Milestones: Gwinnett students outperform peers on Georgia Milestones. Retrieved from [September 19, 2016].

20Data provided by the KIPP Foundation.

21Data retrieved from [September 1, 2016].

22Conger, Jay and Robert M. Fulmer (December 2003). Developing Your Leadership Pipeline. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from [July 20, 2016]. Groysberg, Boris, Nitin Nohria, and Claudio Fernández-Aráoz (May 2009). The Definitive Guide to Recruiting in Good Times and Bad. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from [June 27, 2016].

23Miller, Ashley (2013). Principal Turnover and Student Achievement. Economics of Education Review, 36, 60–72

24Based on interview with Oscar Santana, Chair of the Local School Council at Von Steuben Metropolitan High School in 2014 (September 14, 2016). Chicago Public Schools LSC Reference Guide. Retrieved from [September 28, 2016].

25Information compiled from Chicago Public Schools School Data Pages. Retrieved from [September 1, 2016].

Web Spotlights Only

26Information provided by Noble Network of Charter Schools.

27Information provided by Noble Network of Charter Schools.

28Information provided by Noble Network of Charter Schools. Information compiled from Chicago Public Schools School Data Pages. Retrieved from [September 1, 2016].

29Information compiled from Chicago Public Schools School Data Pages. Retrieved from [September 1, 2016].

30Information compiled from Chicago Public Schools School Data Pages. Retrieved from [September 28, 2016].

31Information compiled from Chicago Public Schools School Data Pages. Retrieved from [September 28, 2016]. 2015 My Voice My School Survey Results. Retrieved from [September 1, 2016].


We would like to thank Fund team members Ariela Abrevaya, Emily Boyce, Anne Filer, Nelson Gerew, Destiny Ortega, Lauren B. Rapp and Ashley Richardson, as well as independent consultant Elizabeth Whitehorn, for their contributions to this report.

Additionally, we appreciate each of the 482 principals who participated in our 2016 Principal Engagement Survey. We are especially grateful for the school leaders and partners who shared their stories and experiences for the Spotlights in this report.

We would like to thank your partners at Chicago Public Schools (CPS), including team members in the Department of Principal Quality, the Office of Innovation and Incubation, the Office of Local School Council Relations and the Office of Network Support. The CPS Talent Office and Performance Policy and Data team also provided critical information and context for this report.

Finally, we want to thank members of the Chicago Leadership Collaborative (CLC) and leaders in the charter community for their continued partnership.