New Report on Chicago Principal Retention Lauds Northwestern’s Fellowship Program

New Report on Chicago Principal Retention Lauds Northwestern’s Fellowship Program

principal retention report 2015

A new report on principal retention by The Chicago Public Education Fund addresses the challenge of retaining Chicago’s top principals. The report, based on a survey of 423 principals, cites Northwestern’s Chicago Principals Fellowship as the kind of opportunity that principals want for learning and support.

Northwestern's Chicago Principal Fellowship program is a rigorous yearlong executive leadership program designed by Northwestern University to bolster and retain top public school principals citywide. Recently 20 Chicago principals were chosen for the second cohort of the Northwestern principal development program, and 41 principals have been served since the program began in 2014.

Principal turnover is high in Chicago, with 40 percent of the 423 principals surveyed planning to leave their jobs within three years. This statistic parallels the typical rate of principal turnover in Chicago, according to the new report, “Chicago’s Fight to Keep Top Principals.”

The report quotes Alfonso Carmona, the principal of Healy Elementary School, recognizing Northwestern’s program for providing meaningful interactions with peers for learning and support. He said, “Being a principal is a lonely job, and sometimes the solutions you need come from your colleagues, not central office. The Fellowship helped me dive back into what leadership is all about. Having those conversations with my colleagues and business professors elevated my professional development and added tremendous value to my learning.”

The Fund report emphasizes the need to challenge top principals to stay in the system, and one way to do so is to motivate them by providing opportunities for new learning. In the survey, 46 percent of principals said professional development opportunities would improve their job satisfaction.

Another primary recommendation of the report is to “help principals spend their time where it matters most: in classrooms, with teachers and students.” Only 45 percent of principals say they spend most of their time supporting instruction. More than 70 percent of principals say they reducing time spent on compliance would improve their job satisfaction

The other two main recommendations of the report are to help principals leverage their resources by providing coaching and tools and to support principals’ individual development.

Northwestern’s Principal Fellowship program recently began its second year with a new cohort of 20 top Chicago principals. The program kicked off in 2014 as a three-year collaboration between the School of Education and Social Policy and Kellogg School of Management.  The Fund is investing $500,000 in the initiative, which is also supported by the Crown Family.

Designed to challenge and invigorate already high-performing principals, the year-long program uses cutting-edge leadership development techniques, said SESP professor James Spillane, a key architect of the program along with SESP dean Penelope Peterson and Liz Livingston Howard and Jane Hoffman of Kellogg.

Photo courtesy of The Chicago Public Education Fund

By Marilyn Sherman
Last Modified: 3/3/16