Degree Date


Document Type

Dissertation - NLU Access

Degree Name

Ed.D. Doctor of Education

Academic Discipline

Educational Leadership

First Advisor

Harrington Gibson

Second Advisor

Elizabeth Minor

Third Advisor

Donald Angelaccio


There are more than 650 principals in Chicago’s public district and charter schools, and 60-90 of them leave every year. Using publicly available data, I look closely at the 228 transitions that occurred in 505 district-managed public schools between 2014 and 2017.

The data in this study suggest that Chicago generally keeps more principals than other large urban districts. Still, transition happens here, in all types of schools. When it does, a new principal typically inherits a school where performance already tracks behind on a wide range of metrics, including student attendance, teacher retention, perception of leadership, math attainment, and reading attainment. My research suggests that school communities experiencing transition also struggle to catch up, even several years after leadership change.

Based on the analyses in this study, I recommend a series of research-based policy and practice changes. Acting on these recommendations could improve the conditions for new principals, the competencies of stakeholders involved in the leadership transition process, and the context and culture of succession planning and transition management overall.

I offer tools for evaluating transition needs and assigning resources. These tools may be particularly helpful for Local School Council members who are charged with principal hiring and management decisions in the city’s schools. Although firmly rooted in Chicago’s context, these recommendations have relevance in other school systems, both big and small. I conclude by outlining additional qualitative and quantitative research that could further inform the field.