Tougher principal selection process in the works

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Chicago Public Schools is embarking on yet another revamp of its controversial principal eligibility process, based on a new set of principal skills that will also play into new state-mandated principal evaluations.

The changes could take effect as soon as this summer, but it’s not clear yet what they will be. The current process includes an application with essays and an initial interview; a scenario exam; a school data case study; a more in-depth interview; and a mock teacher observation. (Those could still be part of the revamped process.)

Steve Gering, chief of the Office of Leadership Development, announced the new skills at the recent Chicago Principals and Administrators Association conference. He says the new skills are simpler than the current set of five principal competencies and 12 “success factors” that are linked to the current principal eligibility requirements.

What’s more, the current competencies – and eligibility process – “do not say a word about” family and community engagement, Gering says.

The new principal competencies are as follows:

  • “Creates professional learning systems” to improve teaching (implementing Common Core State Standards, using data analysis to improve instruction)
  • “Champions teacher excellence through a focus on continuous improvement” (this includes observing each teacher weekly and supporting teacher leadership teams)
  • “Establishes a college-going culture” among staff and students, including a strong “school brand”
  • “Empowers and motivates families and community to become engaged”
  • “Relentlessly pursues self-disciplined thinking and actions”

 

Currently, “I think the process is not as selective as we would like it to be,” Gering says. However, 70 percent of applicants initially failed the current process, prompting complaints from aspiring principals.

Part of the increased selectivity will happen on the front end – before candidates are recruited into principal preparation programs – and within the programs themselves. The newly created Chicago Leadership Collaborative will bring together several existing principal preparation programs and make sure their curriculum is in line with the new skills. (Officials issued a request-for-proposals from principal prep programs last fall, and are currently reviewing applications.)

The collaborative won’t just be about principal preparation, Gering notes, but will also offer other training to principals and principal candidates.

Gering, who was hired by CPS in August after working for the district as a consultant for years, is charged with coordinating that group’s work as well. He says that one goal is to triple the number of graduates from high-quality preparation programs – which now include the University of Illinois-Chicago’s Urban Education Leadership doctoral program, New Leaders for New Schools, and Teach for America’s Principal Leadership Pipeline – from 32 a year to 100.

The move comes as the district is poised to implement new state rules changing principal evaluations.

Starting in fall 2012, all principal evaluations in Illinois must rely on student achievement growth – such as value-added test scores – to determine at least 25 percent of a principal’s score. By fall 2014, achievement growth will be required to count for at least 30 percent of principals’ ratings.

Districts are also required to observe principals and rate their “professional practice.” In Chicago, those ratings will likely be based on the new set of principal skills.