News
News Home
Quick Bites
Exploradio
News Archive
News Channel
Special Features
NPR
nowplaying
On AirNewsClassical
Loading...
  
School Closings
WKSU Support
Funding for WKSU is made possible in part through support from the following businesses and organizations.

Lehmans

Hennes Paynter Communications

Greater Akron Chamber


For more information on how your company or organization can support WKSU, download the WKSU Media Kit.

(WKSU Media Kit PDF icon )


Donate Your Vehicle to WKSU

Programs Schedule Make A Pledge Member BenefitsFAQ/HelpContact Us
Education


Cautious optimism as Cleveland schools put new levy dollars to work
More money and a sweeping transformation effort put a new attitude in classrooms as the nation watches Cleveland's unique endeavor unfold
by WKSU's KEVIN NIEDERMIER


Reporter
Kevin Niedermier
 
Cleveland school's CEO Eric Gordon lending a hand during last year's successful levy campaign. He says the influx of new money is helping drive the district's transformation plan, but more needs to be done to keep the momentum going.
Courtesy of Kevin Niedermier
Download (WKSU Only)
In The Region:

When Cleveland public school students and teachers returned to the classrooms five weeks ago, there was reason for optimism.

Last fall, Cleveland voters passed a 15-mill levy increase, the first new money since 1996. The levy is fueling the district’s ambitious transformation plan. The state legislature even stepped in last year, changing the law to allow many of the plan’s features to be carried out. And, teachers have a new contract that includes pay raises and provisions to keep the best teachers in the classrooms.

WKSU Kevin Niedermier takes a look at how all of this is working, and what it will take to keep the district moving forward.

LISTEN: Three perspectives on how Cleveland's plan is playing out

Other options:
Windows Media / MP3 Download (7:51)


Nearly two dozen failing Cleveland schools have been closed, and 13 others have been anointed as “investment schools” with enhanced curricula. The school days are longer, and corporations, universities and the community are more involved. The district is collaborating with some high-performing charter schools, something the Cleveland Teachers Union would never stand for in the past. And, there’s a new working relationship between labor and management.

In the midst of it all, there’s cautious optimism. During the previous two years, the district cut $114 million in costs, laying off about 560 teachers and eliminating scores of programs. But for now, the levy increase has stopped the bleeding. And Cleveland Teachers Union President David Quolke says there’s a new vibe.

Teacher’s union cites stability & new partnership with administration
“We’ve become too accustomed in Cleveland for that spring annual tradition of massive layoffs and potential school closings. It was actuall, I think, a real good start to the school year to not have to go through that and have some stability." says Quolke.

The district still has "a lot of challenges; we going with investment schools. There’s no real silver bullet, so it’s going to take a lot of real hard work. But I’ve gotten out to about 20 schools so far, and I can tell you I’ve really sensed a smooth start to the school year: Teachers in the classrooms; kids learning. We’ve just got to carry this through the entire school year."                             

Quolke attributes the start to the community. "When the residents stepped up with more money, there is that stability factor.  ... Teachers don’t have go through changing schools; changing buildings. It's not going to have to be through massive layoffs. And I think that resonated in the community. We’ve seen groups like the United Way really step up and help us get volunteers for the schools. There was really an investment I think that's carried through from the entire community.

Specifically, he says, changes in state law allowed CEO Eric Gordon to identify the 13 "investment schools." 

"Those schools have different educational programs, the staffs had to sign commitment letters for each of them. There were interview processes at those schools. ... All along, at least from the union’s perspective, we've carried through the fact that you've got to really be investing in the schools.”

District CEO cites a cultural and behavioral change in classrooms
The levy increase that’s making the classroom changes possible expires in four years. And, district CEO Eric Gordon has told voters that they shouldn’t renew it if there isn’t significant improvement by then. Gordon has visited dozens of schools since classes started, and like the teachers union president, he sees substantial changes.

“I walked into Kennedy and there were no students in the hallways, none, on three floors. And that’s already a cultural and behavioral difference, where often our faculty were trying to shepherd students to where they needed to be."

"Then I visited four different classrooms. ...  No heads were down on the desks; nobody had just checked out, the teachers were actively engaging students in meaningful work."
He says that included lab in math class. ... The level of engagement between students and teachers is dramatically different. And I’ve seen it in 33 schools now.”

Like Quolke, Gordon says the community investment has made a key difference. "The community ... has allowed us to reduce class sizes to manageable sizes where teachers can do the work. It’s tangible and you can see it.

Here's the bill Ohio lawmakers passed as part of Cleveland's school transformation:
http://www.legislature.state.oh.us/bills.cfm?ID=129_HB_525 

In addition, Gordon says,  "I think the fact that teachers will be rewarded for their performance and personal growth matters.  ... Our evaluation system is in its second year, and ... we've been able to describe what great teaching looks like, and teachers can work intentionally toward those goals."

"I think there’s also a cultural change, that we’re working very hard to treat every employee as an educator, whether that be an educator bus driver, an educator security guard, an educator CEO."

Intentional messages versus unintentional
At some schools in previous years, Gordon says, "I’ve seen kids wandering around the halls and an adult would say, 'Where’s your pass?' and the kid would say, 'I don’t have one.'"

He says simply telling a kid to get a pass carried an unintentional message: "'Keep on wandering; just wander in another direction.'"

In contrast, Gordon paints a picture at Collinwood High School today, where a teacher took a wandering kid where he was supposed to be. "It’s a difference in our intentionality, saying, 'In our schools, you have to come to learn.'

"There’s a lot more work to be done, I’m not saying that suddently we’ve arrived," Gordon acknowledges. "But I’m telling you the people of our organization have really stepped up their game and are really committed to honoring the now 1,142 days until the levy expires.”

Cleveland efforts being watched in education circles nationwide
Gordon says keeping the momentum going will require the community's continued support. 
The University of Chicago’s Urban Education Institute focuses on improving big-city schools. Director Timothy Knowles calls what’s happening in Cleveland unique. He says public educators across the country are watching because there’s great potential for success.

“First, that labor and management came together and said we’re going to do some unusual things: We’re going to agree to support charter schools; we’re  going to take a real run at a teacher accountability system that will add value to teachers and not just punish them.

"That partnership between the organized labor ... and the district leadership and the civic leadership is rare. And the third part of that triangle is the fact that the levy was passed and that real money was put on the table for particular reforms.

"It’s early yet in Cleveland, but I do think that there’s some promise that Cleveland could be a city where there really is a commitment to innovation and reform that is shared by not just one constituency, but multiple” constituencies.

Community will stay informed about school district progress
Knowles says many urban school districts are trying innovations, but none as large-scale as Cleveland’s.         

Tonight, Cleveland school CEO Eric Gordon will present the school board with the final plan for implementing the sweeping transformation. And tomorrow he will give his annual state of the schools address at the Cleveland City Club. Also, to keep the community informed, a district report card will go out when student report cards are issued. The first one will be delivered in mid-October.

(Click image for larger view.)


Related Links & Resources
The Cleveland Municipal School District's transformation plan

Add Your Comment
Name:

Location:

E-mail: (not published, only used to contact you about your comment)


Comments:




 
Page Options

Print this page

E-Mail this page / Send mp3

Share on Facebook




Stories with Recent Comments

An amendment to an Ohio agriculture bill may kill whole bill
I hope the Gov. sticks to his veto, Att takes more out of this state than it puts in.

From warehouse to writer: Terry Pluto's Thanksgiving thank you
Dear Terry: On my 8th cup of coffee trying to get Thanksgiving "Brunch" done ahead of time because I work nights. However, I just had to stop to contact yo...

The first big private gift comes in for the pro football HOF project
The HOF has needed a shot in the arm for many years and this project will go a long way to getting the attraction the attention it deserves (next: upgrad...

Environmental study nears completion in East Liverpool
Twenty years ago my twin sister and I protested the building and operation of the WTI facility citing several studies that indicated the risk of cancer due to ...

HOF's Canton expansion could take an island and make it a village
I live in the block from Broad St to the Hall of Fame and will be impacted by the expansion. I am in the process of selling my home and planned to long before i...

Cleveland redeploys police to replace rejected red-light traffic cameras
Periodic rotational enforcement without warning does NOT change behavior and the city officials know that. This is the basis of all officer-run enforcement trap...

New enrollment period offers more insurance options
The removal of federal funding for healthcare CO-OPs may limit the growth of the CO-OP movement. http://www.healthcaretownhall.com/?p=6381

The family of Boardman vet killed in Vietnam receives his medals
My name is Mike Eisenbraun. I am Larry's brother. I was 14 years old when Larry was killed in Vietnam. He has been gone for 46 years but it seems like yester...

Cleveland seniors are creating new wealth -- and facing new challenges
Why is anyone surprised that we people over 65 are not retiring? If you have been paying attention, defined company funded pensions were phasing out in the eigh...

Copyright © 2014 WKSU Public Radio, All Rights Reserved.

 
In Partnership With:

NPR PRI Kent State University

listen in windows media format listen in realplayer format Car Talk Hosts: Tom & Ray Magliozzi Fresh Air Host: Terry Gross A Service of Kent State University 89.7 WKSU | NPR.Classical.Other smart stuff. NPR Senior Correspondent: Noah Adams Living on Earth Host: Steve Curwood 89.7 WKSU | NPR.Classical.Other smart stuff. A Service of Kent State University