Professional Development

Chicago Principals To Receive Training from Northwestern U

Over the next three years, exceptional principals in Chicago Public Schools (CPS) will receive training and executive coaching as a result of a collaboration between Northwestern University's (NU) Center for Nonprofit Management and School of Education and Social Policy (SESP).

Principals in the program will receive one year of development training and will, in return, commit to staying at CPS for three additional years.

"Recent data suggests that principal effectiveness improves over time, peaking and stabilizing in the fourth or fifth year a principal is on the job," according to a Northwestern news release.

"Yet only 40 percent of principals remain in that role after five years," said CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett, in a prepared statement.

As part of the program, principal fellows will receive a "360-degree" assessment, including performance feedback from various coworkers instead of just a supervisor, academic training and group and individual coaching.

"The 360 evaluation is a terrifying experience, but those who have had it say it's the most helpful thing they've ever done," said Jane Hoffman, assistant director of non-profit executive education at the Kellogg School of Management and one of three program designers, in a prepared statement. "Leaders don't realize people are watching them all the time."

The collaboration between the business and education schools made sense, according to Penelope Peterson, dean of SESP and co-designer of the program. "Both programs work to train effective leaders and inspire personal growth," she said in a news release.

SESP Professor James Spillane is the third program designer. His research on distributed leadership, which recognizes stakeholders aside from the principal, is a "central and unifying theme" of the program, according to information released by NU.

"It's a commitment vs. compliance opportunity," said Mary Cunat, the principal of Wildwood Elementary School and one of 21 members of the initial cohort, in a prepared statement. "Here's a real chance for committed principals to think around corners, get ahead of the curve and be thought leaders. "Hopefully, our work as fellows with Northwestern becomes a lever to support and accelerate overall system improvement."

"If we really want to be a world class system we have to push back on traditional approaches to teaching and learning," Cunat added. "Having an opportunity to have these conversations with other dedicated principals is invaluable."

About the Author

Joshua Bolkan is contributing editor for Campus Technology, THE Journal and STEAM Universe. He can be reached at

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