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The Chicago Public Education Fund

Building Partnerships to Develop and Retain Outstanding School Principals

May 2017

CFP is committed to promoting effective educational leadership: training high-quality educators and school leaders to improve schools and student performance. CFP’s Education portfolio aims to bolster teacher, principal and school quality through a strategic array of grants to results-driven programs and organizations. These efforts help provide a pipeline for new teachers and principals, aid in their development and retention and help promote leadership and sound policies.

One such program is the Chicago Principals Fellowship—a key effort in supporting the success and retention of top Chicago principals.

Analysis of Chicago data suggests that principal effectiveness increases as principals remain in the role over time and are most effective in and beyond their fourth year. However, only 40% of principals remain in that position after five years.  

When a principal leaves, it profoundly impacts the entire school. Twenty-four out of 25 teachers say the most influential reason they stay in or leave their school is their principal, and 25% of a school’s effect on student learning is attributed to the effectiveness of its school leader.  When principals move on, student achievement has been shown to decline for 2 years.

The Chicago Principals Fellowship partners with the Chicago Public Schools, Northwestern University and the Chicago Public Education Fund, toward the goal of developing and retaining top principals in Chicago Public Schools.

Fellows receive rigorous executive leadership training at Northwestern University, personalized leadership development support, and the opportunity to engage in collaborative learning with their high-quality peers. Fellows are invited to represent the district at national and regional events to further their development and are asked to help design and implement key school district projects and initiatives.

The Fellowship has served 66 of Chicago’s top district, charter and turnaround public school principals in its first three program years. Combined, the Fellows serve 30,000 students across the city. To date, almost 88 percent of Cohort 1 and 2 Fellows continue to impact Chicago’s public schools with their leadership, and 100 percent of Cohort 3 Fellows remain in their roles. Based on this progress and the continued focus on retaining and developing Chicago’s best school leaders, the Fellowship will grow its annual cohort size to 35 principals.

By investing in innovative programs that prepare and support effective academic leaders, CFP is helping ensure excellence and satisfaction of Chicago’s top teachers and principals, and to maximize the city’s school performance now and in the future.