by Chuck Hoven
(Plain Press, February 2016) In January, Ohio Department of Education released four-year graduation rates for students in the Class of 2014 who started ninth grade in 2011 and graduated by 2014. While the Cleveland Metropolitan School District increased its overall graduation rate there remains a big gap between the district’s top six schools and the remaining twenty schools in the district.
The four-year graduation rate for Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD) students for the Class of 2014 was 65.9% which earned the district a grade of F. The State average four-year graduation rate was 82.1%. The four-year graduation rate for schools deemed similar to the Cleveland Metropolitan School District was 70.2%. The state’s grading system for four-year graduation rates is as follows: 78.9% or less = F; 79 – 83.9% = D; 84-88.9% = C; 89 – 92.9% = B; and 93-100% = A.
Following the release of the state report card data on graduation rates, the CMSD News Bureau sent out a press release noting the progress the district has made in improving its graduation rate. The release notes that the four-year graduation rate for the class of 2014 was higher than for the class of 2013: “The graduation rate grew from 64.3 percent to 65.9 percent, setting a District record for the fourth year in a row, and has increased 13.9 percentage points in four years,” said the CMSD release.
While the progress noted by the school district is encouraging, a look at individual schools reveals a tale of two separate tracks of four-year graduation rates within the Cleveland Metropolitan School District – those schools receiving an A grade and those schools receiving an F grade – with very few schools falling in between.
Of the twenty-six CMSD schools listed with four-year graduation rates for the Class of 2014, six schools received an A Grade, meaning they had graduation rates of 93% or better: Cleveland Early College, Cleveland School of Architecture & Design, Cleveland School of Science and Medicine, Cleveland School of the Arts, MC2 STEM High School, and Whitney Young. Most of the schools receiving an A Grade have admission requirements used in selecting their students.
Eighteen of the remaining twenty schools received a grade of F. This means that their four-year graduation rate was 78.9% or less. The schools that received the Fs for their graduation rate for the class of 2014 are: Collinwood, Design Lab & Health Careers, East Technical High School, Garrett Morgan School of Science, Glenville High School, James Ford Rhodes High School, Jane Addams Business Careers, John Adams High School, Law and Municipal Careers at MLK, Lincoln West High School, Max Hayes High School, New Technology High School at East Tech, New Tech West, Success Tech Academy School, The School of One, Thomas Jefferson and Washington Park.
Only two schools fell in between: Ginn Academy which received a grade of C (84-88.9% four-year graduation rate), and Health Career Centers which received a grade of D (79-83.4% four-year graduation rate.)
Efforts like the CMSD’s Get2School campaign should help to increase graduation rates. For example, Lincoln West High School has a 90.1% attendance rate thus far in the 2015-2016 school year, compared to an 83.1% attendance rate in the 2014-15 school year.
Other strategies and additional resources need to be brought to help schools to improve their graduation rates. In another press release from the CMSD News Bureau, the school district lauded a success story at East Tech where the four-year graduation rate rose from 46% to 72.9% in just one year. The increase is significant, and should be studied, even though it still represents an F Grade on the State Report Card.
The press release outlines the factors that East Tech Co-Principals Temujin Taylor and Paul Hoover credit for the increased graduation rates:
1). The school mixes special-education students with other peers in core classes and assigns two teachers to each of those classrooms. The co-principals say the model raises the bar for special-education students, who account for nearly 40 percent of East Tech’s enrollment.
2). Volunteers from the service group City Year provide individual and small-group instruction to ninth- and 10th-graders during and outside of class time. The Friendly Inn Settlement, a neighborhood agency that coordinates “wraparound” community services for the school, also tutors students at its offices.
3). East Tech employs a strategy known as “no-nonsense nurturing” that corrects misconduct by directing students’ attention to peers who demonstrate good behavior.
4.) The school also has what is called a “level system” that rewards good behavior with “Scarab Bucks” and penalizes bad behavior with demerits and progressive discipline. Students can use “Scarab Bucks” to buy school gear and free or discount admission to sporting and other school events.
5.) All students who score below grade level in reading or math are scheduled for a mandatory daily “intervention period” that will provide them with extra instruction. Students who get on track or pass their state graduation tests earn the right to take elective courses such as urban agriculture, culinary arts, band or JROTC.
6.) Teachers use an instructional strategy that calls for them to serve as guides instead of lecturers and lets students apply skills to demonstrate they know content. Three coaches help teachers to master the practice.