CMSD is headed in the right direction, Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson said Wednesday during a State of the City address delivered to nearly 1,000 people at the Cleveland Convention Center.
Jackson, who called education his No. 1 priority, lauded the District for raising graduation rates. He said he would give some schools A’s but acknowledged that others are not yet there,
"We have made strides," the mayor said. "At the end of the day, the system is moving forward in the right way."
Jackson is in his third term as mayor and was giving his 10th annual address on the state of affairs in Cleveland. Under state law, he appoints school board members and, in consultation with the board, appoints the District's chief executive officer. CMSD is the only Ohio district under mayoral control.
Jackson and District CEO Eric Gordon were key players in drafting The Cleveland Plan, a sweeping, customized set of reforms written into state law.They worked with other city and school officials, the Cleveland and George Gund foundations, the Greater Cleveland Partnership, Breakthrough Charter Schools and national leaders in education.
Wednesday’s address, hosted by the City Club of Cleveland, was not actually a speech, but a conversation on the hall stage with KeyCorp CEO Beth Mooney. At the end of the session, Mooney asked Jackson what he hopes the headline will be when his career in Cleveland is over.
“Job well done,” Jackson answered.
The city event was popular during the early afternoon under the Twitter hashtag #StateofCLE, as many people followed on social media in addition to the big crowd on hand.
The community’s focus on education should be threefold, Jackson said, highlighting what he said most families want from their school district: educating the “whole child,” progress in the maturity of their children and assurance that their children are safe.
“The average person wants to see their child graduate,” he said. “We have to show that we're doing a better job graduating their children.”
CMSD’s graduation rate reached a record high 64.1 percent in 2012-13, the most recent year for which data is available. That was an increase of 5 percentage points from the previous year and 12 points since Gordon was named chief executive officer in 2011.
When Mooney asked him to grade the schools, Jackson said: “It depends on the school. We measure it by the progress. And (Gordon) has set up a system to track schools that are failing.”
Referring to the District's strategy for its lowest performing schools, also known as Investment Schools, Jackson said: “These were schools that were dysfunctional, and now they have new direction.”
During a question-and-answer period, a Ginn Academy senior asked what tools CMSD students need to be college ready.
“We have to educate our children to where they are competitive,” Jackson said,. “That’s the purpose of The Cleveland Plan."
Jackson said the District is raising expectations for students. "Our children will meet those expectations and exceed them,” he said.
He said he supports the Common Core State Standards on which new state tests are based.
The tests, adopted by 43 states, promote critical thinking. Jackson said he backs the Common Core because the standards cross borders and "an A here is an A there."
After the event, Jackson posed for pictures with the Ginn Academy students (see photo above) who attended the State of the City.