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Volume 19, Number 1
January/February 2003

The Power—and Limits—of 'Civic Capacity'

Outside organizations bring more than resources to Chicago schools


Chicago Public Schools (CPS) recently rolled out a new principal assessment program aimed at giving principals detailed and ongoing feedback on their performance. The program, called EXCEL, replaces the traditional one-shot annual evaluation form that has been used for years. It is just one of several major new programs unveiled in Chicago for the 2002-2003 school year, and far from the largest.

But what makes EXCEL notable is that-like many efforts here—it was developed with the help of one of Chicago's many education groups that serve as partners in the education reform effort. EXCEL was an initiative of Leaders for Quality Education (LQE), a group organized by the city's business community, and the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association. The Chicago-based MacArthur Foundation and others provided funding.

Chicago may not have as many charter schools or big-name education leaders as other major cities, but perhaps no other school system in the nation is as influenced by such a vast array of businesses, philanthropies, universities, and community groups. These groups come in all shapes and sizes, and get involved in schools in nearly every way imaginable. Some are brought in by interested teachers and parents, some through district initiatives, and others through local school leaders, principals, and policymakers.

This is an excerpt from the Harvard Education Letter. Subscribers can click here to continue reading this article.


For Further Information

For Further Information

L. Duffrin. "Seen as a Model, Manley Plan Falls Short." Catalyst (June 2002).

P.A. Sebring, A.S. Bryk, J.Q. Easton et al. Charting Reform: Chicago Teachers Take Stock (Chicago: Consortium on Chicago School Research, 1995).

D. Shipps. "The Businessman's Educator: Mayoral Takeover and Non-traditional Leadership in Chicago," in L. Cuban and M. Usdan, eds., Powerful Reforms with Shallow Roots: Improving America's Urban Schools (New York: Teachers College Press, 2002).