In 1997, Catalyst selected her, based largely on her school’s test scores, as an example of outstanding school leadership. Our profile chronicles her rise in CPS from day-to-day substitute to primary teacher to award-winning principal.

Between 1991 and 2001, the percentage of McCosh students scoring at or above norms in reading on the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills rose from 16.1 to 38.2, which is slightly above the citywide average and six percentage points above the average for schools of similar size and poverty level. The percentage of McCosh students scoring at or above norms in math on the Iowa tests rose from 22.8 to 40.7, which is slightly below the citywide average but slightly above average for similar schools.

McCosh’s student population of 1,000 is 97 percent low income.

Improvements in teaching came gradually to McCosh. In 1998, Watkins and her staff spoke candidly to Catalyst about their often frustrating endeavor to overhaul math instruction. After years of trial and error, they finally hit on strategies that work, as evidenced by rising scores on both state and city tests.

Watkins has served on the selection committee for aspiring principals applying to the LAUNCH training program (Leadership Academy: An Urban Network for Chicago) and recently was recruited by the University of Chicago Center for School Improvement to serve part time as its director of professional development schools.

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