‘Troubled schools need a whole new team’

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Truth is not the only school in Chicago to suffer from frequent principal turnover. Thirty-three schools have had their leadership change five or more times since 1995, according to a Catalyst analysis of School Board data.

If the data on Truth are any indicator, the total may be higher. That data did not include three administrators who stayed for less than a year.

Barbara Radner, a DePaul University professor who works with schools, says the board is at fault in some cases because it replaced ineffective administrators with inexperienced ones. Often it has no choice, she adds, since a school on probation is unlikely to attract a skilled, seasoned principal.

Radner has a solution: Install a team to get the school in basic working order. The team might include a retired principal who could revamp the instructional program, for example, while the new principal focuses on establishing order.

The board tried a similar strategy at two schools she worked with, Corliss and Harlan high schools, and test scores climbed.

“You cannot underestimate how difficult this job is,” she insists. “You can’t do it by yourself.”