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Cleveland Schools CEO Eric Gordon responds to district's report card ratings

"I am disappointed by these results but not surprised... the abrupt switch to remote learning was jarring for us all," Gordon said in a statement Thursday evening.

CLEVELAND — Editor's note: The video in the player above is from a previously published, related story. 

"The Cleveland Metropolitan School District made great progress in the last 10 years, but that momentum could not stand up under relentless battering from the COVID-19 pandemic."

Just hours after the state of Ohio released report cards for school districts across the state, Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD) CEO Eric Gordon released a statement discussing the district's setbacks.

For the 2020-2021 school year, CMSD had an 81.3 percent attendance rate and an 80.9 percent graduation rate. By comparison, Akron City Schools had an attendance rating of 91.4 percent and a graduation rate of 82.6 percent. 

Additionally, performance measurements including proficiency scores and a composite of all test scores were down significantly, which Gordon attributes to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

"Our new state report card, which was released today, revealed the impact felt in the District during a statewide shutdown and more than a year in remote and hybrid learning," Gordon wrote in a statement Thursday night.

CMSD was not alone, however. School districts across the state were impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and remote learning.

“While we do not have as much information as we normally would, schools and districts can use the data in this year’s report cards to guide decisions about where and how to focus time, efforts and resources that will best serve their students in the midst of pandemic-related challenges,” said Dr. Stephanie K. Siddens, interim state superintendent of public instruction. “The entire education community continues to model perseverance, dedication and resilience despite challenges that still exist both inside and outside the classroom. I commend districts and schools across the state for their commitment to innovation and creativity as they continue to ensure students, educators and staff are healthy, safe and successful every day.”

You can read the full statement from Gordon below: 

"Dear Friends and Supporters of CMSD,

The Cleveland Metropolitan School District made great progress in the last 10 years, but that momentum could not stand up under relentless battering from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Our new state report card, which was released today, revealed the impact felt in the District during a statewide shutdown and more than a year in remote and hybrid learning.

The four-year graduation rate was a bright spot, reaching 80.9 percent, the latest in a series of record highs for the District. That mark is for the Class of 2020.

More current measurements took big hits, following a trend seen in Ohio’s other large urban school systems. Proficiency scores, progress in closing achievement gaps and performance index – a composite of all test scores – all declined. Lower participation in tests, which, despite the pandemic, had to be taken in person, played a significant role.

I am disappointed by these results but not surprised. While we made sure every student had a device and internet access, the abrupt switch to remote learning was jarring for all of us.

We know many parents are frontline workers who could not be by their children’s sides during this challenging transition. Or their families were dealing with illness and death brought on by the coronavirus.

While these results are not what we want, there are signs that what we are doing is working.

On the K-3 literacy improvement measure, a measure that shows the number of students who move from off track to on track in literacy, we saw a decline of 5.7%. However, when compared to Ohio’s other urban districts, our decline was slightly less than their 6.5% average decline. The average decline statewide was 13.5%, indicating that most other Ohio districts had a more difficult time moving off-track readers to on track last year.

On the performance index, we saw a 20.3 point decline.  This is approximately one-third lower than last year’s scores. However, we again slightly outpaced our urban peers, who, on average, declined by 21.5 points.  And while we didn’t keep pace with the statewide average of an 11.9 point decline, the gap in our decline was smaller than we anticipated it might be.

Besides the new record overall graduation rate for the Class of 2020, our 80.9% graduation rate for African-American students was 4 points higher than the state average of 76.9%, and our 84.9% graduation rate for Hispanic students was 6.1 points higher than the state average of 78.8%.  This is news we can be truly proud of.

Our CMSD scholars and educators have clearly proven what they can accomplish under better conditions.

In the years before the pandemic hit, CMSD achieved growth that ranked among the fastest in the state.

Nationally, a recent report by the Council of the Great City Schools highlighted CMSD among a select number of urban districts that stood out in beating the odds.

Titled “Mirrors or Windows: How Well do Large City Public Schools Overcome the Effects of Poverty and Other Barriers?”, the report examined 10 years of results on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, better known as the Nation’s Report Card. CMSD was one of only six districts that consistently improved their performance during that period.

Education Week reported on the Council’s study and featured Cleveland in a piece headlined, “The Fastest Improving City School Districts Aren’t the Ones You Might Expect.” 

Recovery will take time, but with students back in person five days a week, the District has launched a bold new vision of learning designed to accelerate the process.

Besides assessing students and coming up with plans to meet their individual needs, schools are introducing project-based learning and other engaging approaches designed to take them to deeper levels of learning.

We are also making school more appealing by expanding arts, music and extracurricular activities, placing a healthcare professional in every building and making sure students and families keep their access to technology and reliable, high-speed internet.

The CMSD Summer Learning Experience gave a preview of the new vision. More than 8,400 students were signed up. Both the summer program and our new vision of learning have drawn national media attention.

Our move to expand experiential learning, blended learning and other strategies is worthy of attention. We envision a style of education unlike any we have known before, and those will be critical components for addressing the achievement gaps exasperated by COVID.

My thanks go out to our students, families and educators for the support and strength they have shown during conditions we could never have imagined. Together we can get all of our scholars back on track and headed for the bright futures they deserve."

CLICK HERE to search for your school district's report card.

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