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Cleveland schools’ gains and challenges more nuanced than F grade shows, CEO Eric Gordon says in State of the Schools speech

September 18, 2018

Cleveland schools’ gains and challenges more nuanced than F grade shows, CEO Eric Gordon says in State of the Schools speech

CLEVELAND, Ohio – The Cleveland school district’s overall F grade on state report cards last week gives too limited a look at what is happening in the district, CEO Eric Gordon said in his annual State of the Schools address Tuesday.

Much like Twitter users who overly praise or criticize the district, the report card grade is too blunt a look at real issues and progress in the district, he said.

A more accurate assessment would do both.

“There is still a lot of hard work to be done, and we can’t, and shouldn’t, declare victory while ignoring the current reality,” he told the crowd at the Renaissance Cleveland Hotel in Public Square.

Click here to watch the speech, organized by the City Club. See below for his prepared remarks.

As we reported last week, the district received an F for the 2017-18 year, one of 14 F grades for districts in the state, as the state brought overall grades back after a multi-year absence. 

The district also received an F for an important area that helps make up that grade – the academic growth and progress of students over the school year.

At the same time, the district bumped its achievement grade, the other key component of an overall grade, up to a D as its test scores gained more than the rest of the state. As we reported last week, the district’s scores made a step toward closing the gap with state average scores, as represented by the Performance Index of scores from multiple grade levels and subjects.

“In fact, CMSD’s two-year 5.8 point gain on the Performance Index is actually more than double the state average of 2.6 points,” Gordon said. 

He also pointed to a few other gains:

– The district made progress in closing the gap in scores between white students and other ethnic groups.

– Though the district’s grade for improving literacy of young students dropped to a D from a C last year, the district performed better than more districts than previously, and the grade drop was from a change in how the state measures the grade.

– More third graders met state reading requirements to advance to fourth grade – 83.9 percent of third graders, compared to 79.6 percent last year.

– And the district’s graduation rate remained an F, but rose to 74.6 percent, marking a 22.4 percentage point increase since 2011. And Cleveland’s graduation rate for black and Hispanic students is higher than the statewide rate for those two groups.

“That’s right, if you are a black student in Cleveland, you are more likely to graduate high school than are your African-American peers statewide,” Gordon said. “And that is absolutely something to celebrate!”

But he noted that while the district was close to earning an overall D grade, that would not be worth celebrating.

“Frankly, this is a club we simply can’t afford to stay in,” he said.

Just like last year, he pointed to the developing relationship with the New York-based Say Yes to Education college scholarship and academic intervention program as a potential way to lead the district to a better level. He and others working with Say Yes decline to say when an official program can be announced, but say planning and negotiations are going well.

And he closed with his second analogy of the day – a play off the saying, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” Instead, Gordon said, it was built brick by brick over years.

“Since launching The Cleveland Plan in 2012, we’ve laid hundreds of bricks on our reform path,” he said.

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