The Cahn Fellows Programs for Distinguished Principals

COVID - 19 Update

First and foremost, we are committed to ensuring the health and safety of our current Fellows and Allies. To that end, we will be providing virtual support for all study sessions through the remainder of this year. We are committed to providing quality programming and with the support of our faculty and alumni advisors have designed a plan that will support a valuable and enriching learning experience.

Be assured that we are here for you and together with our staff, faculty, alumni advisors, Board of Directors and partner city Advisory Councils we will continue to provide direction, program content, ideas, structure and support throughout this time.

Our staff and alumni advisors are working from home and are available to you.

Please visit this website regularly for future changes.

Be safe and healthy,
Lisa and Barbara


For more information, please contact

 Our Mission

The Cahn Fellows Programs seek to improve large urban public school systems nationally by providing distinguished school leaders with advanced professional development and recognition.  Our programs are designed to increase leadership skills, retention in education and student outcomes.  

Our History

The original Cahn Fellows Program was founded in 2002 as a result of the vision and generosity of Charles & Jane Cahn. The Cahns wanted to do something to recognize excellence in education with the belief that, in recognizing and supporting excellence, we can help an entire system to rise. This Cahn Fellows Program inducted its first cohort of Cahn Fellows into the program in 2003. The Cahn Fellows Programs are a set of programs that have been specifically designed to support the growth of exemplary school leaders. The Programs enable Fellows to become even more effective principals while leveraging their talents to support aspiring school leaders as they choose an Ally who learns alongside them in the yearlong process of growth.

Our Programs

The Cahn Fellows Distinguished Principals Program: The yearlong intensive schedule of advanced professional development for leaders begins with the identification of school level leadership challenges and ends with presentations of findings at our Annual Leadership Conference 12 months later. We provide a sequence of study that challenges our leaders to grow professionally and personally and to learn to build capacity. At the outset, principals (Fellows) identify an aspiring leader from their school (Ally) whose learning during the year is designed to build capacity. Fellows and Allies participate in monthly study sessions during the year with a core leadership curriculum that focuses on adult development, systems change, adaptive leadership, equity, diversity and inclusion. Throughout the course of the year-long study and research-based curricula from Teachers College faculty, Fellows will learn from leadership experts and Cahn Alumni Advisors. Topics include information such as school culture and climate, data inquiry, neuroscience of leadership, 360 assessment, effective communication, and organizational change. During their weekends together, Fellows and Allies work on analyzing the authentic school level problem of practice with support from our Alumni Advisors and Faculty. These study sessions offer a deeper dive into data inquiry and systems change theory. This program is currently serving Principals from cities on the East Coast to Chicago and Denver. For more details see Our Reach.

Program History & Curriculum Video

A West Coast version of our Distinguished Principals program is currently in development.

In addition, our programming is currently being expanded to include an Alumni Program and a 3-4 year Principals Program. 

The Cahn Fellows Alumni Program: As the Cahn Fellows Programs look to the future, we are committed to the engagement of the Alumni through the expanding of alumni programming in each city with support from the Advisory Councils, the deepening of local relationships in each partner city, hosting annual national Cahn Fellows Conferences, and expanding program content through the creation of webinars.

The Cahn Fellows 3-4 Year Principal Program: Our goal for this program is to build capacity designed for 3-4 year principals needing technical leadership development. Participants who complete this one year program and who go on to complete the 5 year requirement will be given priority when applying to the Cahn Fellows Program for distinguished principals.

Our Core Beliefs

1.  School leadership has an enormous impact on student outcomes.

2.  The greatest leverage is with high-performing principals.

3.  Our investment in principals and aspiring leaders increases retention and leadership pipelines.

Our Theory of Action

If the program-

  •   engages principals in a collaborative network of peers
  •   increases their ability to build capacity
  •   improves teacher effectiveness and school culture

then we will both extend the retention of the strongest principals in schools and school systems and develop a pool of future leaders, ultimately elevating student learning and achievement.

For more information please see our Cahn Fellows Brochure

Professional Development

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

Cahn Fellow Experiences Video


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