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CSU, Tri-C presidents say CMSD is making progress under The Cleveland Plan


CMSD is making headway under The Cleveland Plan, the presidents of Cleveland State University and Cuyahoga Community College told the Board of Education on Tuesday.

CSU President Ronald M. Berkman and Tri-C President Alex Johnson reviewed early execution of the plan, a state-approved blueprint for reform, at the request of Mayor Frank G. Jackson. By state law, Jackson oversees the District, and Berkman and Johnson are ex-officio, or non-voting, board members.

The two college presidents noted that CMSD has begun to shift responsibility for budgeting, hiring and scheduling to individual schools, and together with outside partners, has launched PRE4CLE, a provider network that will make high-quality prekindergarten more accessible throughout the city. Both are among the commitments made under The Cleveland Plan, which has been written into state law.

“I really think in one year, significant progress has been made in laying a foundation,” Berkman said after the men delivered their findings. “It doesn’t mean we’re done, but we’ve laid a foundation for success.”

Berkman and Johnson said they have a vested interest in the performance of students who in many cases will go on to CSU and Tri-C. They said the colleges would continue working with the District to ensure a continuum of education from high school graduation to college degrees and places in the workforce.

But they urged patience in judging CMSD, noting that the plan has been in effect for only one school year and that 2 1/2 years remain until voters decide whether to renew an operating levy that was critical to carrying out the reforms.

“What we’re dealing with did not occur overnight,” Johnson told the board and audience. “I caution you to give the plan time to take its course.”

They noted that even before plan gained traction, third-grade reading scores, the four-year graduation rate and the number of students scoring 21 or higher on the ACT -- a measure of college readiness -- were climbing. Ohio’s Third Grade Guarantee requires that students be reading at grade level at third grade to earn promotion.

But Berkman said the state has added “another layer of complexity to the equation” by adopting proficiency testing based on the more rigorous Common Core State Standards. 

School districts are bracing for the possibility that scores will dip under the new standards. Berkman said he and Johnson recommend that Cleveland’s future results be compared against how The Ohio 8 schools, a coalition of CMSD and seven other urban systems, perform as a group.