Key Questions

On the Path to Becoming a Chicago Public School Principal

  1. What do practicing principals think it takes to be a successful school leader?
  2. What critical experiences did principals have prior to taking on the role and where did they learn essential skills?
  3. What skills, experiences, and supports did principals wish they had prior to taking the position?

New Principals in Chicago Public Schools: Diversity and Their Prior Experiences

  1. How diverse are Chicago's principals?
  2. What are common pathways into the principalship?
  3. How long do new principals stay in their position?

Researchers from NORC, the University of Chicago Consortium on School Research, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill conducted an innovative analysis of demographic, career history, and job tenure data of hundreds of CPS principals over eight years and interviewed 20 early career school principals in CPS from 2020-21, with funding from the Institute of Education Sciences at the U.S. Department of Education. In one report, researchers examined the landscape of the CPS principalship over time. In the companion brief, researchers asked principals what it takes to be a successful school leader, what critical experiences they had before they became principals and where they learned essential skills, and what skills and supports they wished they had before taking the position.

For additional details, see On the Path to Becoming a Chicago Public School Principal and New Principals in Chicago Public Schools.

Key Findings of On the Path to Becoming a Chicago Public School Principal

  • The majority of principals cited people skills and emotional intelligence skills, along with organizational and managerial skills, as most important for successful leadership.
  • Principals who had first been assistant principals said that role best prepared them to lead their own school.
  • Formal principal preparatory programs and peer networks also provided essential skills. Skills that principals wished they had before they took the position included school budgeting and navigating central office systems.

Key Findings of New Principals in Chicago Public Schools

  • Three of every four Black and White CPS students have a principal of the same race/ethnicity.
  • Sixty-nine percent of CPS principals are female, compared to 54% nationwide.
  • A newly hired principal’s likelihood of remaining in their position five years later differed by elementary (52%) vs. high school (32%); by student body racial composition categories of predominantly Black (49%), Latinx (58%), racially mixed (57%), and Black and Latinx (23%); and by free/reduced-price lunch category.
  • In CPS, former assistant principals (58%) tend to stay in their schools longer than other newly hired principals (44%).