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Improving Teacher Leadership to Support Teacher Retention in Chicago Public Schools

Project lead: Mara Schanfield

While Illinois is facing a statewide teacher shortage, data show that 40% of the state’s unfilled teaching positions are in Chicago Public Schools (CPS). The CPS Talent Office identified a subset of 60 schools—called “Opportunity Schools”—that face consistent challenges with hiring and retaining teachers compared with other schools in the district. Opportunity Schools predominantly serve students from low-income families of color on the city’s South and West sides. These schools typically receive about half as many teaching job applications and have twice as many vacant positions as other CPS schools, and teachers in these schools are 2.5 times more likely to leave their positions than other CPS teachers. CPS Talent Office leaders are working to increase teacher retention in the Opportunity Schools by providing teacher leadership opportunities such as mentoring and induction support for new teachers and serving in a master teacher role called a “multi-classroom leader.”

To support this work, the Region 9 Comprehensive Center (R9CC) collaborated with the CPS Talent Office to increase its capacity to measure teacher retention by streamlining data collection and analysis processes. In 2019–20, R9CC supported CPS staff as they examined strengths and assessed needs in areas such as data collection methods, measures of success, best practices, and support systems for teacher retention. After finding a need for data access, the district built an outcomes tracker to provide common retention data proactively across the district with input from R9CC. This work culminated in a strategic data seminar that provided program leads with the opportunity to learn from each other and discover commonalities across programs, such as goals, structures, evaluation, and data use. As a result, CPS can share not only ideas and inspiration across the district but also concrete data collection tools, methods, and key findings.

As a result of these initial needs assessment activities, R9CC is supporting CPS staff in 2020–21 as they develop a strategic data plan that includes detailed next steps for supporting continuous improvement of teacher retention in CPS. In addition, R9CC is collaborating with the Illinois State Board of Education to identify best practices and lessons learned to inform teacher retention initiatives in other districts across the state.