National education leadership group singles out Chicago schools’ No. 2

On Thursday, Chiefs for Change, a high-profile network of state and district education leaders, named LaTanya McDade, who the second in command of Chicago schools, to its latest roster of leaders to watch.

The “future chiefs” program is considered a springboard that helps push administrators into top jobs. McDade joins eight other deputies, assistant superintendents, and academic leaders from San Antonio, Denver, Indianapolis, Miami-Dade, among others, on the list.

Previous future chiefs who’ve gone on to top district and state jobs include Penny Schwinn, who in January was named to run the Tennessee Department of Education, and Susana Cordova, who became the superintendent of Denver Public Schools in December.  

In January, Chicago Public Schools CEO Janice Jackson was named a Chief for Change member alongside Orlando Riddick, the superintendent of the Midland Independent School District in Texas and Rob Anderson, the superintendent of Boulder Valley School District in Colorado.

Chiefs for Change was founded by Florida governor Jeb Bush in the 2000s but has since split from the foundation that launched it and taken a bipartisan turn. The group advocates for school choice, culturally diverse curriculum, tough accountability standards, and the rights of immigrant students, among other issues.

Mike Magee, the group’s CEO, said the recognition of the city’s top two schools administrators in such a short time frame “reflects very well upon Chicago” and that Chicago’s Freshmen On-Track program as well as gains in graduation rates helped hone his organization’s attention on the leadership of the city’s 361,000-student public school district.

“We are impressed by the work Chicago has done in early identification of students in ninth grade who need additional supports to be on path to college and career success,” he said, describing a program rooted in research at the University of Chicago that has spread throughout the district. “And we’ve likewise been impressed by LaTanya’s leadership. We think that wherever you see dramatic improvements in student outcomes, you are bound to see effective leadership.”

A district alum, McDade, 45, graduated from Whitney M. Young Magnet High School and oversees all academic departments in the district. She was elevated to the No. 2 post last January after Chicago schools CEO Forrest Claypool resigned amid an ethics scandal and another alum, Jackson, was named to the top job. Prior to working in the central office, McDade served as a network chief, a principal, and an English language arts teacher.