UIC’s Center for Urban Education Leadership Received Grant to Continue Developing CPS Leaders

Shelby Cosner, center, works with members of the Center for Urban Educational Leadership. The center recently received a grant to work with Chicago Public Schools to develop network leaders.

The UIC Center for Urban Education Leadership received a $250,000 grant to continue its efforts to help Chicago Public Schools’ five-year vision strengthen its leadership pipeline.

The Lloyd A. Fry Foundation’s two-year grant continues the center’s work that began with a $250,000 grant in 2020 to develop network leaders as senior supervisors who perform continuous improvement and support managers in district to develop as instructional leaders.

The school district is the third largest in the nation, behind Los Angeles and New York, with 638 schools and more than 340,000 students. As part of its leadership structure, CPS is organized into networks that provide administrative support, strategic direction, and leadership development to schools in each network.

The grants are designed to continue the development of network leaders to improve school leadership, said Shelby Cosner, director of UIC’s Center for Leadership in Urban Education and the project’s principal investigator.

“At CPS, network leaders are really positioned to amplify school leadership, so when you look at schools and when you think about the theory of what happens in a school that impacts student learning, leadership is among the most important things,” said Cosner, who is a professor of educational policy studies at the UIC College of Education.

During work under the first grant, UIC officials worked with network leaders to become more oriented as “leader developers” by focusing their attention on developing leaders and leadership in each of the schools so that the principal’s or school’s leadership structure can impact the organizations and instruction.

Cosner dubbed the CPS a “sub-district structure” because it is so large. As a result, to make the size of the neighborhood manageable, network leaders hold a lot of power and influence over school education in neighborhood network buildings. There are 21 networks, grouped by region and school type, all under the CPS Network Support Office.

The first year of the grant was spent collecting data so that the center could get a sense of the impact of the networks on schools. This was done by interviewing chiefs and their deputies, principals and other leaders, as well as reviewing documentation.

Shelby Cosner, center, works with members of the Center for Urba
Shelby Cosner, center, works with members of the Center for Urban Educational Leadership.

After the center analyzed all of its data after the first year, UIC officials met with the Network Support Office and worked together to highlight the issues. One of the issues was how to tackle the “high churn schools” that have historically struggled. As they are in underfunded neighborhoods and serve more students of color, deep-seated factors have come to light.

“When you dig deeper, you find that these schools have dramatically different levels of chronic absenteeism, student homelessness, student mobility, and teacher turnover,” Cosner said. “These four characteristics were not understood to be underlying factors in schools, and they are.”

One of the goals of the new grant is to continue to embrace learning design and collect ongoing data to analyze what teaching, organization, and leadership look like in schools across the district, putting particular emphasis on the difference in “high churn” schools. The objective is to develop strategies between the network and the center to help these schools.

“One of the things we’re looking at right now is living in this high churn space,” Cosner said. “It will be really important that we understand how teaching, organization and leadership… are different in schools with high churn. What are teachers doing differently?”

The purpose of the grant is to come to an understanding of what those issues are, Cosner said. At the same time, there are likely to be many policies and practices at the district level, as well as policies and practices in the wider community, that worsen these conditions, she said. The goal is to design interventions and strategies to address these conditions.

The Lloyd A. Fry Foundation supports organizations with the strength and commitment needed to solve the city of Chicago’s persistent problems resulting from poverty, violence, ignorance and despair. They seek to build the capacity of the individuals and systems that serve them. Their vision is that Chicago provides education, prosperity and hope for all.

In 1933, Lloyd A. Fry founded the Lloyd A. Fry Roofing Company in southwest Chicago. Over the next five decades, the company grew to become the world’s largest manufacturer of asphalt roofing and related products, with nearly 5,000 dedicated employees in manufacturing facilities nationwide. The company was sold to Owens-Corning Fiberglass Corporation in 1977. Much of the proceeds from the sale of the company now serve as an endowment for the Lloyd A. Fry Foundation, which has served the needs of the Chicago community since 1983. .

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