Cleveland schools flounder, again

In May 1953, Edmund Hillary and his trusty sherpa Tenzing Norgay stood on the top of the world. They had conquered the impossible: climbing Mount Everest and all 29,000 feet of it. Later on Hillary would look back on his accomplishment with pride, saying that, by climbing Everest, "the unattainable had been attained."

Like Hillary and Norgay in the spring of 1953, Cleveland's schools face a long, uphill climb to reach the summit of educational excellence. Is the summit unattainable? It'll be hard at least. Consider Cleveland's 2010-11 academic performance data: Approximately one in two of Cleveland’s students failed their math exam and two in five failed their reading exam. More than 35,000 public school students, or 60 percent of all of Cleveland's public school students, attended a failing district or charter school.

Mount Everest: The mountain Cleveland's schools face

Source: Wikipedia

Despite the glum achievement results, there are a few rays of hope for Cleveland. The city has 16 district and charter school buildings rated A or A+ by the state. These include the high-flying John Hay high schools (part of Cleveland Municipal School District) and the Constellation group of charter schools. But high-quality schools are in short supply: In 2011-12, only 7 percent of Cleveland’s public school students attended one of these highly-rated district or charter school buildings.

The following report shows the data on Cleveland's charter and district school performance for the past school year. In addition, we also project how the Common Core will affect academic performance results in 2014-15. We predict that the PARCC exams—tests aligned to the Common Core and to the rigor of college coursework—will be harder and will have higher performance standards. As a result, even fewer of Cleveland's students (and students in surrounding communities) will pass these exams.

The past year’s data and the projection of future student achievement results remind us again that Cleveland’s schools face a high mountain to climb. But as Hillary and Norgay prove, scaling the highest heights can be done. But it'll take grit, determination, and a sense of purpose for Cleveland to conquer it.

Download: Cleveland district and charter schools: Report Card Analysis, 2011-12.

Note on data for this report: On October 17 the Ohio Department of Education released "preliminary" school district data for 2011-12 that included all major achievement data components for a district. This is the most complete release of 2011-12 school data to date. However, the data remain "preliminary" until the State Auditor completes his investigation of districts and school buildings who are suspected of tampering with student attendance records. When the investigation is complete, ODE will issue official Report Cards for each distirct.

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