New high school principal center at U. of Chicago will focus on data

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Principal training took a new turn in Chicago this week when the Chicago Public Schools entered into a partnership with the University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration (SSA) to create a center to help existing high school principals make sense of data and prepare new ones for the task.

 

Principal training took a new turn in Chicago this week when the Chicago Public Schools entered into a partnership with the University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration (SSA) to create a center to help existing high school principals make sense of data and prepare new ones for the task.

The Board of Education chipped in $1.1 million for the new Chicago Center for High School Leadership, and center leaders are asking foundations for another $245,000.

The idea for the center has been kicking around for a while but found fertile ground in the administration of new CEO Ron Huberman, whose mantra is performance management. In fact, the agreement promises performance management outcomes, including, over the long term, “transforming schools into places of learning and high achievement of students, faculty and staff.” Specifically, the agreement says the work will result in more freshmen finishing the year on track to graduate on time and, ultimately, higher graduation rates.

The center will build on the work of the SSAS-based Network for College Success, which for the past two years, has provided professional development to 10 high school principals.

In the center’s first year, it will engage four additional principals. Each year, another four or five will be added.

Melissa Roderick, an SSA faculty member and co-director of the Consortium on Chicago School Research, will provide detailed data on the schools and help principals understand them. Roderick did a stint as the CPS planning director under former CEO Arne Duncan.

The center then will work with principals to help them create effective instructional leadership teams within their schools, says Mary Ann Pitcher, who has directed the Network for College Success and will lead the expanded project. Pitcher also was a founding director of the Young Women’s Leadership Charter School.

In addition to supporting and developing existing principals, the center will have a fellowship program for aspiring high school principals. The fellows will do 12-month internships in high schools and take classes to learn about effective high school reforms.

Pitcher acknowledged that elementary school principals need some of the same supports. However, the center will focus on high schools because they are so complicated that it can be hard for principals to figure out how to make improvements. “We often say that high schools are like small towns, and the principals of them are like mayors,” she says.