Professional Development

The Cahn Fellows Program offers public school principals the opportunity to participate in a rich learning experience emphasizing intellectual exchange, reflective practice, and measurable results.

The Program, which employs a cohort-based model of professional development, utilizes a variety of pedagogical approaches designed to encourage critical reflection and perspective transformation. The result is a dynamic active approach to learning that supports individual experienced and aspiring principals as they take their schools to the next level.

Principals selected into the Program participate in a fifteen month Cahn Fellowship while continuing to work full-time as school principals.


Summer Leadership Institute

The Summer Leadership Institute is designed to enable Fellows to effectively link leadership and instructional theories to their practice. It is an intensive two-week program grounded in two cornerstones: the study of leadership across organizations and the study of leadership at the school level. Through this program, Cahn Fellows have the opportunity to reflect on their own leadership and create a vision of leadership for the future. While in attendance at the Institute, Fellows are required to develop and submit an action plan addressing an Individual Challenge they are facing in the leadership of their schools. The Individual Challenge work facilitates learning across the cohort as Fellows engage with one another on a review of their challenge.‌

Week One:

The SLI begins with a trip to Gettysburg for our Fellows to examine leadership through an analysis of the styles of those who led the Battle of Gettysburg.  Connections and reflections are made on their own leadership strengths and areas of needed growth. Fellows return to Teachers College, Columbia University to spend the week with our prestigious faculty to receive solid grounding on topic focusing on organizational change, adult learning and systems thinking.

Week Two:

The second week of our Summer Leadership Institute is spent examining specific challenges facing urban school administrators and solutions to those challenges.  In addition, notable leaders in diverse fields are invited to speak to our Fellows about their leadership journeys, giving another perspective and dimension to the skillset needed to be a successful leader.

Faculty and Alumni Study Sessions

In their capacity as Cahn Fellows and Allies, school leaders are asked to identify a leadership challenge they are facing in their schools which they believe, if they effectively addressed it, could have a positive impact on student achievement, school culture and/school leadership capacity, as well as a positive impact on their own leadership potential. Each year, Fellows and Allies are asked to independently choose their leadership challenge. Principals are then grouped into their study groups according to their challenge topic.

Study groups meet for five full-day and one weekend retreat session during the year.  Cahn Fellows and Allies work in partnership in a collaborative and action oriented environment.  Each group is led by a Cahn alumni facilitator and a faculty advisor.  

Study groups focus on topics such as:

  • Building trust in the school community.
  • Adult development and teacher leadership.
  • Meeting the needs of diverse learners.
  • Improving on the communication of the school's mission and vision.

Cahn Allies Program

In order to leverage the experience of the Cahn Fellow principals to benefit the next generation of public school principals, each Fellow mentors an aspiring school leader from within their own school. The program calls these aspiring school leaders Cahn Allies.

As part of the mentorship, Cahn Allies are selected by their respective Fellows to participate along with them in many professional development activities over a 12 month period, from July to June of each year and to work on a team project. The Cahn Fellows Program provides support for the mentoring relationship, which is best described as a reciprocal and collaborative learning relationship between an experienced and aspiring leader, who share an interest and responsibility in helping one another to develop, grow and move forward in their respective careers. In other words, we see mentoring as a mutually beneficial and growth-enhancing developmental relationship. Since the Program's founding, over 345 new or aspiring principals have been mentored.

Many Cahn Fellows have gone on to mentor aspiring principals through programs such as the Summer Principals Academy (SPA), a transformative graduate program for public school educators interested in becoming public school leaders, at Teachers College and the Advanced Leadership Program for Assistant Principals (ALPAP), a program that provides a venue for Assistant Principals who have already met the challenges of their administrative and supervisory roles; have demonstrated a readiness to become Principals.  They are primed in both programs to explore the decision-making process required of a school Principal.

Leadership Challenges

In their capacity as Cahn Fellows and Allies, principals and aspiring school leaders are asked to identify a leadership challenge they are facing in their schools which believe, if they effectively addressed, could have a positive impact on student achievement. 

This focus on real challenges and measurable results within the Cahn professional development model allows the Cahn principals to more readily apply academic research to practice and take an active approach to their learning.

Once the challenge has been identified, the Cahn principals are asked the following questions:

Cahn Principals are asked to set qualitative and quantitative benchmarks to help them measure their progress against their stated challenge throughout the school year and to submit a self-reflection at key points during the year.

Get Involved with the Cahn Fellows Program