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Select Chicago Principals to Get More Autonomy, Less Oversight

A small group of high-performing Chicago principals will have more flexibility and less district oversight in the upcoming school year under a new program the district announced on Monday.

Twenty-five principals will be able to participate in the "Independent Schools Principal Program," which will give them more autonomy over budgeting, purchasing, and professional-learning content. They will also be exempted from oversight and evaluation by the district's network chiefs,  according to the district. (They still must participate in CPS-mandated trainings.)

Forrest Claypool, the new CEO of the Chicago system, said the program was part of the district's efforts that recognize the important role that principals have played in improving schools and the district's commitment to continue to "develop and retain our most effective school leaders."

The principals—who must apply to become part of the program—must have been in their positions for three years and must have received "proficient" or "distinguished" ratings on their district evaluations in the 2012-13 and 2013-14 school years, according to the district.

The district is also looking for principals who have built strong school operations and have good partnerships with their communities.

The principals in the program will also serve as a part of a "learning lab" of sorts, according to the district, which will give them the opportunity to share their successful practices with others and learn from their peers and leading experts in the field.

"The Independent Schools Principal program is not just about greater administrative flexibility, it's also an excellent opportunity for principals to participate in a professional learning community, to discuss what strategies are working best and to problem solve together," said Janice Jackson, the district's chief education officer said.  

"The practices and insights of our top principals will inform how we approach educational opportunities and challenges across the district and I know that will translate into a better educational experience for our students in the years to come."

Jackson told Catalyst Chicago that 312 principals qualify for the program.

According to the magazine, the program rings similar to the Autonomous Management Performance System, which was launched in 2006 during Education Secretary Arne Duncan's tenure as Chicago's schools chief. The program ended in 2011 under CEO Jean Claude-Brizard, the magazine said.

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