CPAA Wins Fairness and Transparency for Principal Candidates

On February 10, 2023 House Bill 5285 was signed into law by Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker. The following article was written, prior to the signing of the bill, but offers a clear overview for four of the seven provisions within HB 5285 and how those provisions will improve the Principal Eligibility Process. The article as originally printed follows:

A Short History of HB 5285

Two years ago, I reached out to CPS management and all seven members of the Chicago Board of Education regarding multiple member concerns, including several issues with the Principal Eligibility Policy. Not a single management official responded to our outreach, but four members of the Chicago Board of Education — not including the president — did meet with me and 33 sitting administrators who were also CPAA members. The Board’s members seemed genuinely concerned by what they heard from our members and brought those concerns to management. In response to Board of Education members' concerns, management made minor policy changes. However, these changes did not address the core issues of fairness and transparency. So, on April 26, 2021, I wrote the Board and management to highlight the serious shortcomings that were not addressed in the revised policy. Not a single member of the Board nor management responded — ever. So, in January 2022, I studied the existing laws and then wrote legislation to address the lack of fairness and transparency in the revised policy. Through our lobbyist, Bukola Bello, we found sponsors in the Illinois legislature, and our bill was filed as HB 4933.

For nearly a year after we filed the bill, CPS management and the Mayor’s Office officials made arguments against the bill. They met with HB 4933’s Senate sponsor but refused to meet or negotiate directly with CPAA. Those officials even insisted that CPAA not be present during a November meeting with the Senate sponsor. It was only when the bill seemed destined to pass that CEO Martinez, CEdO Chkoumbova, the CPS General Counsel, and several other department heads agreed to a meeting with CPAA present. Along with our Senate sponsor, the team representing CPAA at this meeting consisted of General Counsel Aryelle Smith, Lobbyist Bukola Bello, and myself.

At that meeting, CEO Martinez initially avoided negotiating on the merits of the bill and implied that the bill should be shelved so that management could address the problems without legislation despite the fact that they’d refused to address the problems for more than two years. Martinez stated that he and his team were “naive” and not ready to negotiate despite having more than a year to prepare. This appeared to be yet another delay strategy, and our Senate sponsor, Cristina Pacione-Zayas, expressed her disappointment with management’s tactics. It was only when the Senate chief of staff insisted we go through the bill line by line that CPS put forth their arguments against the bill. Over the course of several days, our team engaged in four marathon negotiation sessions with the Senate chief of staff serving as somewhat of a facilitator/arbitrator when we would come to an inevitable impasse. I was concerned that the most important parts of the bill would be gutted during these negotiations, but we came out with most of our original provisions intact, along with several provisions added by CPS management. The newly negotiated bill was then refiled as House Bill 5285, and it passed both the House and Senate unanimously.

On Friday, January 13, 2023, during the CEO’s weekly call with principals and assistant principals, CEO Martinez announced both bills with none of the context provided above or below and with no mention of CPAA.  

How HB Impacts the Principal Eligibility Policy (Part 1 of 2)

HB 5285 amends the Illinois School Code (105 ILCS 5/34-8.1) and contains seven provisions that bring more fairness and transparency to the CPS Principal Eligibility Policy. The following is a detailed breakdown of four of those provisions. The remaining three will be detailed in our Spring issue.

Scoring Transparency Provision

Before HB 5285

CPS management does not tell candidates what they scored, and they do not reveal the passing score. There is also no public scoring rubric. While principals must provide teachers with an evidence-based rubric-aligned rationale for their ratings, there is no similar requirement to provide eligibility candidates with an evidence-based rubric-aligned rationale for their eligibility determinations.

Relevant Language in HB 5285

The board must establish standards and procedures to ensure that no candidate is deemed ineligible to be selected as a principal for reasons that are not directly related to the candidate's anticipated performance as a principal. The standards and procedures established by the board must do all of the following:

  • Set forth all of the specific criteria used by the board to make decisions concerning the eligibility of candidates.

  • Provide each candidate with a written, competency-aligned score report and evidence-based rationale related to the scoring criteria for each competency area.

  • Include provisions to ensure that no person is discriminated against on the basis of conscious or implicit biases associated with race, color, national origin, or a disability that is unrelated to the person's ability to perform the duties of a principal.

What Issues Does This Provision Solve? 

Arbitrary and Unjustifiable Eligibility Determinations

The lack of a public passing score and rubric, the hiding of scores from candidates, and requiring no evidence to justify decisions led to an eligibility process that was open to arbitrary decision-making and biased assessments of candidates. This left hundreds of talented administrators locked out of advancement opportunities within CPS. It is extremely important to note that this legislation creates more than a “feedback” requirement as management attempts to frame it. It is a requirement for an evidence-based criteria-aligned rationale. When you rate teachers, you have to provide more than feedback; you have to provide an evidence-based rubric-aligned rationale for each rating score. Now, management must provide similar rationales for eligibility determinations. Many of you have observed a teacher’s lesson and felt like the lesson deserved a basic or unsatisfactory rating. However, when looked at against the rubric, the evidence from the observation did not provide a justifiable rationale for a poor rating. If you’ve ever had that experience, then you understand just how important this evidence-based rationale requirement is for determining eligibility.

Due Process in Eligibility Determination Provision

Before HB 5285

There was no grievance procedure or other system of due process for candidates who were denied eligibility. 

Relevant Language in HB 5285

The board, in cooperation with the organization that represents the district's principals and assistant principals, must establish a grievance and hearing procedure for those candidates the general superintendent or the general superintendent's designee has deemed ineligible to serve as principal of an attendance center or whose eligibility has been slated for revocation. Within 10 days after the general superintendent or the general superintendent's designee determines that a candidate is ineligible or makes a decision to revoke the eligibility of an administrator, the general superintendent or the general superintendent's designee must notify the candidate or administrator, in writing, of the specific reasons for the general superintendent's or the general superintendent's designee's determination of the candidate's or administrator's ineligibility. Within 30 days after receiving this notification, the candidate or administrator may request that the general superintendent or the general superintendent's designee initiate a review of the decision through the grievance and hearing process established pursuant to this Section.

What issues does this provision solve? 

Failure to Ensure Process Fidelity and Score Validity

Not only were eligibility evaluators not required to provide an evidence-based rubric-aligned rationale to candidates, but there was no process to validate the scores they assigned by ensuring their scoring process was faithful to criteria listed in the scoring rubric. With a grievance procedure, candidates now have some ability to ensure evaluator scores are valid by initiating a review of the evidence collected by the evaluator and whether or not the evidence is aligned to the scoring criteria. We fought to ensure grievance hearing officers were independent arbitrators but management was successful in getting the law to allow the CEO to assign the hearing officers. We still have some measure of influence because the grievance procedure must be worked out between CPAA and CPS management, so we will work to create a procedure that is as fair as possible under this constraint. While this provision is far from ideal, it is better than what we had before, which was no grievance procedure at all.

Supportive Services Provision

Before HB 5285

Not only were there no supportive services to help candidates address perceived shortcomings, but candidates were not given any specific information on what those perceived shortcomings were.

Relevant Language in HB 5285

In addition to the score report and evidence-based rationale discussed in the Scoring Transparency section, HB 5285 contains the following language:

The standards and procedures established by the board must … provide remediation goals and other supportive services to assist a candidate in correcting any deficiencies identified by the board in the board's rationale.

Note: While we were not keen on using terms like “remediation” and “deficiencies,” these terms have specific legal meanings that others terms do not, so we were compelled to use them in writing this legislation.

What issues does this provision solve? 

This provision, to some degree, points to the heart of the problem with the entire Principal Eligibility Process. We all know that few if any of us were great principals in our first years on the job. We became great principals by taking on the role of principal and getting leadership support while in that role in a wide array of formats, including formal coaching, constructive pushback from stakeholders, conversations with colleagues, and learning from our missteps. However, the very underpinnings of the Principal Eligibility Process assume that you ensure great school leadership by assessing an already state-certified administrator at one point in time before they ever get the opportunity to learn and grow on the job. It also falsely assumes that the assessment measures and processes are accurate predictors of future performance. If management were serious about wanting great principals, their entire paradigm would shift dramatically. Their current model is to create a false sense of quality control by using questionable measures to inspect the current talent levels of individuals in the candidate pool. This must shift to a more promising model of developing the full potential of each candidate in the candidate pool. This approach would require a significant investment in a rich leadership development program that uses in-role leadership responsibilities as opportunities to nurture and develop an expansive pool of administrator talent among principals, assistant principals, and teachers with administrative endorsements. While this provision does not accomplish that, it does compel CPS management to take the first step beyond the flawed inspection model by requiring district officials to provide supportive services to candidates denied eligibility.

Public Database Provision

Before HB 5285

CPS management officials concealed the eligibility list and compelled candidates to apply for vacant positions through district management rather than directly to Local School Councils. 

Relevant Language in HB 5285

“The board shall maintain a public database that includes the names of all the candidates who are eligible to be selected as a principal and who do not choose to not have their name included in the database.”

What issues does this provision solve? 


In many cases, aspiring principals did not want management to know when they were applying for a principal position, but concealing the list from Local School Councils (LSCs) allowed management to compel all candidates to submit their applications to management rather than to the LSCs. Consequently, this required LSCs to go through management to verify eligibility. With the public database requirement, there is no reason LSCs cannot reach out directly to candidates and no legitimate reason to prevent candidates from reaching out directly to LSCs.

Limited Access to Principalship Opportunities

Compelling candidates to submit applications to management allowed CPS officials to prevent the names and applications of eligible candidates from ever reaching a Local School Council. With the public database requirement, candidates should be able to submit their applications directly to LSCs to ensure they will be considered.

Insufficient Candidate Pools for Principal Positions

Centralizing applications with management and then leaving it up to management to forward candidates to LSCs often left Local School Councils with very few candidates to interview for vacant principal positions. The public database requirement will give LSCs access to the full breadth of principal talent.

Note: Beware of the Opt-Out Provision

The district argued successfully for a provision that allows candidates to remove their names from the public database of eligible candidates. While they argued that this was for “privacy” concerns, removing your name from the list will endanger your privacy vis-a-vis CPS management because LSCs will have to reveal your application to management in order to verify your eligibility. Consequently, we strongly recommend you keep your name on the public list so that LSCs will be able to verify your eligibility without having to go through management.

You Made This Legislation Possible

If you are a CPAA member, this legislation was made possible by you. CPAA’s work is 100% funded by the investments members make through their dues. These investments enable us to focus on the needs of our members rather than the ever-changing whims of external funders. If you are not yet a CPAA member, then please do your part and go to to join the 850+ members who invest in moving this important work forward. 

The remaining three provisions will be covered in our next quarterly magazine, scheduled for distribution in May of 2023.