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Tanika Island, director for six years at the University of Chicago Charter School North Kenwood/Oakland (NKO) Campus and UChicago Charter’s newly appointed Chief Academic Officer, was recently announced a 2013 winner of the Chicago Public Schools Principal Achievement Award. Part of CPS and Mayor Emanuel’s Principal Quality Initiative launched last year, the award measures school achievement on four carefully considered metrics and recognizes leaders who guide their schools to exceptional academic growth.

“A great principal is key to a great school,” said CPS CEO Byrd-Bennett in the district’s statement about the award. “A well-rounded principal will support and develop great teachers and curriculum plans and in turn great teachers create a thriving school culture where students can succeed. I congratulate these 134 outstanding principals for their dedication to their students, teachers and school communities and thank them for their work to help lead our children on a path to a brighter future.”

Island’s remarkable leadership of NKO is well established. Last year, Island was presented with the 2012 Community School Leadership Award for her commitment to organizing resources around families and students while offering extended day learning opportunities. During the six years of her leadership from 2006 - 2012, the percentage of NKO students meeting or exceeding standards on the ISAT increased every year. The campus was also recently featured in The Economist as an exemplary model of blended learning practices.

The CPS Principal Achievement Award specifically recognized Island for leading NKO to the 90th percentile nationally on NWEA meets or exceeds reading growth, and for narrowing the achievement gap by bringing priority groups at NKO to the 70th national performance percentile.

Starting this school year, Island has moved on from leading the NKO campus to become the UChicago Charter School’s Chief Academic Officer. In her new and greatly expanded role, Island will direct and develop strong instructional practice across grades PreK through 12 for the school’s nearly 1,900 students and 250 staff.

“I go to work every day filled with passion and commitment to our values, purpose, and vision,” said Island. “It brings me so much joy. I thank my colleagues so much for the passion, spirit, vulnerability, and willingness to take risks—for seeing in me the potential for leadership before I could—and backing what we know to be true.”

Timothy Knowles, John Dewey Director of the University of Chicago Urban Education Institute, remembers urging a reluctant Island to take the helm at NKO six years ago. The campus’s outstanding growth in the six years since speaks for itself.

“Tanika is an extraordinary leader,” said Knowles. “She understands instruction deeply, she is systematic and relentless, and the intellectual, social, and moral development of children always comes first. She and the NKO faculty and staff are most deserving of this recognition.” 

With the school year already underway, Chief Executive Officer Shayne Evans looks forward to working closely with his longtime colleague to strengthen the UChicago Charter School’s PreK -12 ‘superhighway,' preparing students for success in college and life from the earliest grades through college acceptance and graduation.

“Tanika Island, the parents, students and staff at NKO have demonstrated what is probable when you have high expectations and appropriate supports in place,” he said. “Tanika’s dedication to and belief in our students is exemplary. We look forward to a transformative school year.”