Needed this break after six years of doctoral studies, including two as a full-time SAHM/dissertator. Thankful for rest! And I didn't even bring my computer!

Also, for those who have followed my journey, I am now rereading The Wheel of Time (pictures on tablet). 😂😂😂

Load More...

About The Center for Urban Education Leadership

We are researchers, developers, and policy advocates with expertise in educational leadership, organizational/leadership development, continuous improvement and equity/social justice. We are driven to use our expertise and passion to IMPACT the lives of PK-12 urban students locally and throughout the world. Independently and in collaboration with other research/development organizations, CUEL has secured over 16M to fuel a broad assortment of research and development projects. In collaboration with UIC’s Ed.D. program, CUEL has been recognized for its expertise with continuous improvement by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement in Teaching. 

research and publication spotlight


In a new study published by the journal Educational Administration Quarterly, Cosner and DeVoto investigate how clinical coaches broker relationships and otherwise intervene to assure more potent developmental experiences for their coaches in university-based school leadership preparation programs.  The study drew on about 75 hours of interviews with 25 aspiring principals and 25 interview hours with five clinical coaches in one university-based principal preparation program. The data reveal that coaches can be particularly effective in brokering stronger and more consistent interactions between aspiring principals and the mentor principals who host them in their schools. Coaches also help aspirants to identify rich learning experiences in their host schools, gain support and authorization to lead work and teachers in consequential projects, and access more developmental supports with the aid of their mentors. The authors highlight several implications for the design of clinical coaching within leader preparation programs, as well as how coaches are prepared and supported in their work.

CUEL’s Assessment Specialist Paul Zavitkovsky Posts New Research Brief on Large-Scale Interim Assessments and the Not-So-Common Sense of Standardized Testing

The UIC Center for Urban Education Leadership (CUEL) announces the publication of a research brief that adds new urgency to a quiet war about what standardized tests can and can’t do that’s been simmering for decades between independent assessment professionals and commercial testing organizations.  In the marketplace, at least, testing organizations have been winning this war hands down. In this brief, Paul Zavitkovsky reviews the track record of large-scale “interim” tests, and wonders whether pandemic disruptions, a decade of dismal return on investment and growing demands for instructional equity might finally begin to turn the tide on their continuing popularity. Zavitkovsky is an assessment specialist at the CUEL and is a former principal and leadership coach in the Chicago Public Schools.

Decoteau Irby Considers Race-conscious Preparation and Support Approaches for Asian, Black, Latinx, and Native K-12 Leaders in this Spencer-funded Publication

This white paper examines what we already know and what more educational scholars, policy-makers, and practitioners should know to strengthen the principal preparation and support pipeline for would-be, aspiring, and practicing Asian, Black, Latinx, and Indigenous K-12 leaders. Although researchers increasingly recognize the importance of race and race-gender conscious frames for understanding leader practice, these considerations remain novel in K-12 leadership preparation and support research. This white paper sets forth three key findings. First, despite social justice scholars’ increased attention to race and racism in leadership preparation, most research studies examine pedagogical and curricular interventions aimed at fostering White leaders’ racial consciousness and social justice practice. Second, despite increased calls for preparing more leaders of color, there remains a paucity of accounts that note the leadership preparation and support approaches that directly benefit Asian, Black, Latinx, or Native leaders. Third, leadership preparation and support studies, including those framed by a demographic imperative to increase the number of leaders of color, largely exclude insights from research that documents Asian, Black, Latinx, and Native leadership approaches and challenges.

CUEL’s Steve Tozer is a Contributor on a New Report on Developing Effective Principals

CUEL Faculty Affiliate Steve Tozer is a contributor on a new report on the development of effective principals published by the Learning Policy Institute. This report examines the literature on effective leadership development and provides the most up to date knowledge about entailments of consequential learning experiences for school leaders.

CUEL’s Lionel Allen Considers School Reform in Chicago Under the Renaissance 2010 Policy

In this provocative essay, CUEL’s Lionel Allen, who was tapped by then CPS CEO Arne Duncan and the founders of the Excellence Schools Academy to lead one of the first No Child Left Behind turnaround schools in 2006, both reflects back on this experience and advances potential unsettling implications from this work on schools and communities in the years that have followed.


The UIC Center for Urban Education Leadership (CUEL) announces the publication of a new brief that builds from recent CUEL analysis of schools that have proven most challenging to improve in Chicago Public Schools (CPS). In this research brief, CUEL Researchers Steve Tozer and Lisa Walker make the case for “high churn” schools to adopt an evidence-based stance as they seek to address the issue of chronic student absence, one of the key factors that shape the learning experiences of a portion of students in “high churn” schools.


The UIC Center for Urban Education Leadership (CUEL) announces the publication of new analysis that examines schools that have historically struggled to improve within the context of the Chicago Public Schools SQRP Accountability System. In this research brief, CUEL Researchers Lisa Walker and Steve Tozer advance the term ‘high churn” to describe a school type that has proven particularly challenging to improve. These schools exhibit comparatively high instability in student enrollment and attendance evidenced in rates of student mobility, chronic absence, and student homelessness. Teacher instability is also common in these schools. Walker and Tozer make the case for envisioning new improvement foci and approaches in these sorts of schools.

CUEL Reports Findings about Educational Ecosystems as Leadership Resources for Schools

The UIC Center for Urban Education Leadership (CUEL) announces the publication of a new study examining “intermediary organizations” as critical players in the support of school improvement, in association with the Qatar Foundation’s World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE). As the research and work on educational ecosystems has grown, we now recognize a growing global trend that has positioned “intermediary organizations” in an oversized ecosystem role. Through their direct work with schools, especially the most vulnerable schools, these organizations – which include NGOs, philanthropies, and for-profit agencies – straddle the larger ecosystem and the local schoolhouse, becoming conduits of external leadership resources into schools. In this report, Center Director Shelby Cosner and colleagues explore the activities and relationships of these organizations within the broader educational ecosystem, illuminating how other similar organizations can enhance their access to the kinds of ecosystem relationships and resources that are critical to their work and have a positive impact on schools and students.

Stuck Improving: Racial Equity and School Leadership 

In his 2021 publication, Decoteau Irby calls attention to racial equity and its ever-shifting dynamic as our racial consciousness continues to evolve and racism asserts itself anew. Irby’s book details both the practical efforts of equity-minded school leaders and a deeper understanding of what the work of racial equity improvement truly entails.



In this publication, CUEL Affiliate Jason Salisbury examines educational opportunities through race in urban high schools and whiteness as property. The publication details the inequities in educational opportunity along racial lines and how researchers can critically investigate equity-minded school improvement.

K-12 Equity Directors: Configuring the Role for Impact

This brief represents a collaborative project between the Center for Urban Education Leadership (University of Illinois at Chicago), the Institute of Urban Policy Research and Analysis (University of Texas at Austin, and Leadership for Learning (University of Washington).  This research engaged a team from these institutions including Decoteau Irby, Terrance Green, Ann M. Ishimaru, Shannon Paige Clark, and Ahreum Han. 

Leadership in Chicago Public Schools (CPS)

In this case study, CUEL Research Director Sam Whalen examines the transformational leadership agenda of Dr. Janice K. Jackson, CEO of Chicago Public Schools, between summer 2015 and winter 2020. The study details how she and her executive team re-cultured CPS central office around practices of strategic continuous improvement to tackle systemic challenges of organizational coherence and educational inequity.

Social Justice Leadership and Leadership for Community Activism; Understanding Practices and Challenges in Large Market Oriented Contexts

Using literature on leadership for social justice, community activism, education markets, and critical urban theory as conceptual tools, Salisbury, Cosner, and Richard are examining an assortment of issues that relate to understanding and strengthening social justice and community activism practices by school leaders and about the kinds of context factors that challenge and shape this work in larger urban school districts.


Social justice is a value frequently espoused by our districts, but what does it mean to lead for social justice? Exploring this topic is often more theoretical than practical. CUEL’s Meagan Richard dives into the key practices that help create a clearer idea of social justice leadership.

Working for Impact

Research and Evaluation

We investigate both leadership-focused and multi-disciplinary, leadership-inclusive problems to generate critical and relevant knowledge that matters and will impact practice and policy.

Continuous Improvement, Organizational Development

We are sought by both PK-12 districts/schools and higher education institutions to help them strengthen their approaches and cultures for continuous improvement. In this work, we design and provide both in-person and remote learning designs as well as ongoing support and guidance for continuous improvement and organizational development work. Both in-person and remotely, we also consult with and speak to international, national, state, and regional educational organizations, educational philanthropic organizations, universities and school districts about continuous improvement/organizational development. 

Leadership Development

We are hired by international/national educational organizations, state departments of education, regional educational offices, philanthropic organizations, school districts, and community agencies to design and deliver a broad assortment of in-person or remote leadership development experiences that are tailored to the unique needs of each setting.

Dissemination and Policy Advocacy

We actively communicate to practitioners and the policy/political community through policy briefs, webinars, zoom convenings, videos, and podcasts to ensure that the impact of our research and work is extended and expanded. 

Data and Assessment System Design/Design Support

CUEL is devoting increased attention to understanding the principles and practices of quality data system design, along with the consequences for educators when poor data system designs amplify systemic inequities and distort education policies. Our expertise in this area has benefited from collaborative partnerships with national and regional foundations, school districts, and state lead education agencies.