As vice-chairman of the House Education Committee, I have had the opportunity to hear testimony from scores of witnesses on one of the most important pieces of legislation regarding Greater Cleveland in years – The Cleveland Plan for Transforming Schools. Just as important, if not more so, have been the personal meetings I have had with the parents, students, and teachers of the Cleveland Municipal School District.
The need for The Cleveland Plan comes down to three tragic facts. First, the Cleveland Metropolitan School District currently meets only one of 26 academic standard indicators. Second, the district has a graduation rate of 54 percent; among Hispanics, the graduation rate drops to 30 percent. Of every 100 children who enter the 9th grade in Cleveland, only 23 will go to college. Third, almost 45 percent of third graders are not proficient in reading, and many will remain that way for the rest of their lives.
We all understand the consequences the failure in the Cleveland education system has had on Cleveland and our region: among them, chronic poverty, a downward economic spiral, and an exodus of jobs and families from Northeast Ohio. This cycle must be broken, as we recommit ourselves to ensuring our children have access to world-class educational opportunities. Education is a direct driver of economic development and job creation, and policymakers must do everything possible to promote options that allow our young people to learn, develop, and become highly productive members of our society.
It is well past time to get our house in order, and The Cleveland Plan will set the stage for the revitalization of Cleveland public schools.
- Failing charter schools will be held accountable. In the past, failing charter schools that were forced to close could simply change their name and reopen. The Cleveland Plan will prevent charter schools unable to educate children from opening by applying a common sense, standards-based assessment.
- High-performing teachers will be recognized and rewarded. In the past, teacher layoffs were based on seniority, making it possible for high-performing teachers to be sent home. The Cleveland Plan will ensure only the best teachers are in the classroom by focusing first on performance and last on seniority.
- Results-driven, high-performing schools will be rewarded. In the past, one-size-fits all policies were implemented that prevented schools from addressing unique challenges. The Cleveland Plan will provide high-performing schools more flexibility in managing school budgets; staff selection and assignment; and academic and student support programs.
Now is the time to realign our schools with what we know is necessary – placing student achievement at the center of education. Now is the time to hold everyone to a higher standard – from policymakers and parents to students and teachers. Now is the time to get to work.