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Cleveland Schools CEO Says “F” Grade Boosts Case for Levy

Thursday, September 27, 2012 at 5:56 PM

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Eric Gordon made his annual state of the schools address to an audience of community and business leaders.

Despite learning yesterday that the Cleveland Schools will likely earn an “F” on the state report card, CEO Eric Gordon is pushing forward with a big levy request from voters. During his state of the schools address at the City Club of Cleveland today, he said the news actually underscores why the district needs the money. iIdeastream’s Michelle Kanu reports.

Eric Gordon focused most of his annual speech on the legislature’s passage of a broad sweeping plan to reform the Cleveland schools and the district’s ongoing campaign to get a 15 mill tax levy approved by voters.  The measure—dubbed issue 107 on the ballot—would cost the average Cleveland homeowner an additional $294 a year.  Gordon says the levy’s passage is crucial for the district to carry out its efforts.

Gordon: “And if we needed any reminder of why the Cleveland Plan and this operating levy are so important, we got that reminder yesterday when the Ohio education department released preliminary data that indicates CMSD will likely earn the rating of academic emergency on the 2011-2012 report card when it’s officially released.”

That’s a grade lower than what the district earned last year.  Specifically, it fell short in a category known as “value added,” a calculation that determines if students made a year’s progress in one year’s time.  Gordon says he’s devastated that Cleveland students aren’t moving forward. 

Gordon: “The reality is, despite all of our efforts, CMSD achievement remains low and flat and we failed to meet the state’s value added goal for the second year in a row.”

An academic emergency rating could trigger a state takeover of the district.  When that happens, the state superintendent assigns a special committee to design a plan to improve the district’s academic performance and that often involves shaking up staff and administrators

Gordon says he’s not too concerned about that yet.

Gordon: “I do not expect that we will be taken over by the state.  I do not yet know the rules around the academic distress commission, but I do not believe that this signal alone would require that. “

And, even if the district were to receive state intervention, Gordon says that shouldn’t interfere with the district’s reform efforts. 
While Gordon is using the report card news to rally support for the levy and the district’s reform plan, some say the low grade doesn’t bode well for getting the levy passed.

Cleveland city councilman Zach Reed has been an outspoken opponent of the levy.  Reed says he’s been fielding calls from residents who already have concerns about digging into their pockets to shell out more money for the struggling district.

Reed: “And now when you’re asking them to give money to a district that’s under academic emergency, I think it becomes even more difficult.”

Reed says the district’s lack of progress – even after a number of reform efforts over the past several years - indicates that it will take more than money to improve how well Cleveland students are performing academically.

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Economy, Regional Economy/Business - Analysis and Trends, Education, Government/Politics

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