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Reporting on the state of education in your community and across the country.

CMSD Graduation Rates, College Enrollment Continue To Improve

Cleveland Transformation Alliance reports 49 percent of Cleveland Metropolitan School District students went to college within a year of graduating in the 2019-2020 school year. [Cleveland Transformation Alliance]

The Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD) continues to make improvements when it comes to college enrollment and high school graduation rates, according to the Cleveland Transformation Alliance’s (CTA) recently released report on the 2019-2020 academic year.

CMSD saw a 5 percent increase over the previous year, with 49 percent of CMSD’s Class of 2020 heading off to college within one year of graduation, according to the report. Say Yes Cleveland, a program that offers CMSD students wraparound services to help them graduate and go onto college or careers, deserves credit for the change, said CTA Executive Editor Meghann Marnecheck.

“I think the impact of Say Yes and growing a culture of college-going is incredibly important in a community that has struggled with college enrollment in the past,” Marnecheck said. “As our graduation rates improve and our high school graduates are seeing the potential for future success, we're seeing those college and post-secondary enrollments also increase. And that only means good things for the future of our city.” 

More than 80 percent of CMSD students graduated from high school during the 2019-2020 school year, compared to a 50 percent graduation rate for the 2009-2010 academic year, according to CTA, a public-private partnership that monitors and reports on the quality of Cleveland’s public schools.

“That's significant work and significant achievement in a very short period of time. To me, that shows that the efforts of the Cleveland Plan are working,” Marnecheck said. “We're committed to reviewing the Cleveland Plan as we inch closer to its 10-year anniversary in 2021 and seeing if there are things that need to be tweaked or changed as we move into the new cycle and our new normal as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Due to the pandemic, Ohio education officials opted not to release the usual flood of data for the 2019-2020 academic year since for many, “it was incomplete or inconclusive,” she said, and that limited the amount of data CTA had to work from as well.

According to the report, 22.5 percent of CMSD student households did not have internet access of any kind during the 2019-2020 school year, primarily because they “couldn’t afford it,” Marnecheck said. A spring CMSD survey found two-thirds of district’s families did not have a computer, laptop or similar device at home.

“We know from the map that we presented in our report that the east side of our community is essentially in a broadband desert. The amount of work that our community schools and our district schools had to do to get access for those students was significant. It was a significant investment,” Marnecheck said. “But it further exposes the need for our country, frankly, to rethink what Internet access is. Is it a utility?” 

To combat the massive digital divide brought to light by the pandemic and the continued need for remote learning, CMSD or ordered a total of about 27,000 laptops and tablets and about 13,500 Wi-Fi hotspots – for a school district with an enrollment of about 40,000 students – before the current school year began in August.

Although CMSD is making strides, Marnecheck worries about the impact the digital divide and the pandemic will have on this year’s high school graduation rates and overall academic success, particularly with kindergarten-aged children being kept out of school.

“What's the alternative educational enrichment that that child is receiving,” she asked, if they’re not attending school in person? “So that is a concern about where we're going to be a year from now.”

Jenny Hamel is the host of the “Sound of Ideas.”