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Top 10 news stories of 2017: CMSD in national spotlight (Photo gallery)


CNN contributor Van Jones moderates a town hall meeting on the meaning of equity in education. The meeting, which was held in October during a Council of the Great City Schools Conference in Cleveland, featured a panel that included CMSD Chief Executive Officer Eric Gordon.





After hearing for several years about the good work going on in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District, educators and others from across the country came to the city in 2017 to get a look for themselves.

A theme emerges when the District’s top stories of the year are ranked, and it's that CMSD has captured widespread attention in the areas of school reform, social and emotional learning, attendance and collaboration with charter schools.

As a new year settles in, accompanied by the expectation of even more progress under the reforms in The Cleveland Plan, it’s also a good time to reflect on where we have been. With that in mind, here are the CMSD News Bureau’s Top 10 news stories of 2017.


  1. Urban educators from across the nation traveled to Cleveland in October as the District hosted the Council of the Great City Schools’ annual fall conference. More than 1,100 superintendents, board members and others – the second largest turnout in the gathering’s 61-year history – heard from Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Bill Gates, who announced plans to invest $1.7 billion in public education; actress and activist Rosario Dawson; and CNN contributor Van Jones, while also taking in 75 small-group presentations, many of those focused on CMSD initiatives.
  2. Say Yes to Education announced in May that Cleveland was on a path to become its fourth U.S. chapter. If Cleveland receives final approval, Say Yes will work with local leaders to provide scholarships that fill gaps in tuition and, more importantly, align community services to keep students on track to college and career.
  3. The National Commission on Social, Emotional and Academic Development spent May 1-2 in Cleveland, learning how the District’s Humanware program helps students cope with the distractions of anger, stress, anxiety and fear. The prestigious commission, which expects to issue recommendations in late 2018, chose Cleveland to begin what the group considers the most significant conversation about K-12 education in a generation. 
  4. Nearly 300 students from Puerto Rico were enrolled in District schools after hurricane destruction drove their families from the island. A CMSD response team was waiting to tend to their educational and other needs, as was a consortium that included the District and other community organizations. Meanwhile, District Chief Operating Officer Patrick Zohn joined a group of urban education officials sent to Puerto Rico to help assess the structural condition of battered schools and determine which were fit to reopen.
  5. In September, a new state report card brought news that CMSD’s graduation had reached the latest in a series of record highs for the District. The rate – initially set at 71.9 percent and later adjusted to 72.1 percent – is up nearly 20 points since 2011 and ranks as the third fastest growing rate in Ohio during that period. The report card also showed that CMSD’s K-3 literacy grade had jumped from an F to C. Once entrenched at the bottom of lists, the District outperformed 88 other Ohio public school systems in this key metric.
  6. The Board of Education and the Cleveland Teachers Union approved a new three-year contract that was ratified in March. The contract, which was retroactive to July 1, 2016, will extend through the end of the 2018-19 school year, allowing the District and union to focus on improvements charted by The Cleveland Plan.
  7. CMSD continued to open new high school models, launching six: Bard High School Early College Cleveland East Campus, Campus International (located at Cleveland State University), Davis Aerospace and Maritime, John Adams College and Career Academy, Rhodes College and Career Academy and Rhodes School of Environmental Studies. Bard East, where students can earn both a high school diploma and associate of arts degree in four years, is the second Bard school in Cleveland and one of only five of its kind in the country.
  8. In September, the Mid-American Conference and College Football Playoff Foundation joined the Cleveland and George Gund foundations in awarding CMSD $1 million to help recruit, mentor and keep teachers in the critical but challenging work of urban education. The money, to be distributed over five years, will strengthen professional development and mentoring for new teachers and create a network connecting them with CMSD teachers whose practice has earned them an Excellence in Teaching Award.
  9. CMSD convened the Northeast Ohio Chronic Absenteeism Summit at FirstEnergy Stadium in April, drawing 300 representatives of school districts and other agencies to the home of the Cleveland Browns to share strategies for dealing with a mutual problem. The Cleveland Browns Foundation is the signature partner in the District’s “Get 2 School, You Can Make It!” campaign, which has helped reduce the number of students who are absent more than 10 days of school in a year.
  10. Also in April, the Center for Reinventing Public Education brought together in Cleveland more than 50 participants from Washington, D.C., and 12 states whose organizations have proved they are serious about fostering collaboration between charter and traditional public schools. CMSD shares tax money with 19 charter partners, including 11 the District sponsors, and works with charters through the Cleveland Education Compact to address shared concerns.

Like any such listing, this Top 10 excludes stories that were certainly deserving of consideration.

In that group was the debut of a Microsoft program that matches volunteers with CMSD computer science teachers, part of an effort to offer computer science in all District high schools and, eventually, expand to lower grade levels.

Other worthy stories told of the Ohio Department of Education report that found CMSD has made progress under The Cleveland Plan, legendary Glenville football coach Ted Ginn Sr.’s 200th win and growth in the District's menu of Advanced Placement courses with help from the National Math and Science Initiative.

There also was expansion of the True2U mentoring program for eighth-graders to take in all schools with that grade, the United Arab Emirates’ donation of a soccer field at Franklin D. Roosevelt School and the Cleveland Browns’ installation of two synthetic-turf football fields -- one at the John Adams Campus and the other at John Marshall Campus -- the last of five fields put in by the team. Still others included PRE4CLE reporting that the partnership had helped to increase the number of children enrolled in high-quality preschool by 50 percent, the attendance campaign reaching its goal for the second straight year, Campus International K-8 School cutting the ribbon for a new home at Cleveland State University and CMSD breaking ground on seven new school buildings, continuing a modernization program that began more than a decade ago.

The photo gallery below provides just of few of the scenes that accompanied the year's developments and events. The photos include: Campus International K-8 students taking in the ribbon cutting for their new building in September; MC²STEM High School students using protective glasses to view a total eclipse of the sun in June; dads participating in one of the many Fathers Walks to Cleveland schools in September; a photo from an exhibit of Facing History New Tech High School students representing the 30 articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, displayed at MetroHealth hospital; a student snapping a photo in September at the groundbreaking for a new Waverly School; a member of the National Commission on Social, Emotional and Academic Development chatting with a student during the commission's visit to Wade Park School in May; CEO Gordon and other panelists discussing Say Yes to Education during a "Cleveland Connects" presentation at ideastream in September; K-8 chess players squaring off in a District chess tournament in December at the East Professional Center; Browns linebacker Christian Kirksey visiting George Washington Carver School in December as part of the District's "Get 2 School, You Can Make It!" attendance campaign; and students at Oliver H. Perry School performing in the annual Molly Day salute to the late Molly Voinovich and her family in November.

Keep up on CMSD’s progress and good news in the new year by going to, where you also can find a link to subscribe to our digital newsletters. Also follow or like CMSD on Facebook, Twitter, Instragram and YouTube. Then please share.

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