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Education Station: Education Forward looks at impact of COVID-19 on Cleveland education

The report, released Thursday, highlights successes and failures in the educational system brought to light by the pandemic.

CLEVELAND — As we all slowly work our way back to a new normal, a report released today takes a comprehensive look at how the pandemic shaped education for Cleveland students. 

The Education Forward report tracks how Cleveland schools have fared as we continue to combat the clutches of COVID. Let’s just say it wasn’t an easy year for educators.

"I’ve been an educator for 30 years, 15 of them here in Cleveland. And this has been the single hardest year me and my educators have experienced," said Cleveland Metropolitan School District CEO Eric Gordon at a ceremony Thursday for the release of the report, held in the downtown Marriott Grand Ballroom.

The Education Forward report focuses on early education, K-12, and post-secondary education. It lists several pandemic-related problems in our school system - from record low staffing due to “The Great Resignation” to how decades of underinvestment and under-prioritization of many communities contributed to Cleveland’s digital divide, leading to inequities in virtual learning.

The educational cracks exposed by the pandemic have been vital in figuring out what’s needed to improve the system, namely in early childhood education. Better pay for educators, so more teachers will come back to the classroom, and shoring up funds for much-needed programs and resources for parents was top of mind.

"It really put us on a path of 'ok, here are the weaknesses, and this is what we need to build a really strong system for our earliest learners',” said Nancy Mendez, CEO of Starting Point.

And Uvalde wasn't far from people's minds at Thursday’s ceremony.

"I think what we’re seeing this week are the challenges that children and families are going through all across this country coming out of this pandemic," said Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb.

No doubt the negative impact the pandemic has had on education has been profound and will continue to be felt for years to come. Despite the challenges, the Education Forward report reminds us that Cleveland will bounce back – always has.

"The report sets a charge. It tells us that we can and must recover from the pandemic. It gives us short-term and long-term strategies," says Gordon.

And the positives can already be seen.

"I have evidence of the hope. My class of 2022, salutatorians and valedictorians alone – not the whole class, just those students – have already earned $14-million in first-year college scholarships, without their Say Yes scholarship. These are the kids who had their junior and senior year in the pandemic. If we needed evidence of hope, those young people and their peers that start graduating today are that hope," said Gordon. 

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