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The Gap in Cleveland's High School Graduation Rates

Panelists at American Graduate event, CMSD CEO Eric Gordon in middle (photo:Elizabeth Miller)

By Elizabeth Miller 

At an American Graduate forum hosted by ideastream earlier this week, Cleveland Metropolitan School District CEO Eric Gordon said that African-American and Hispanic graduation rates are both higher than white student graduation rates.  

According to numbers from the 2013 to 2014 school year, the minority graduation rate in Cleveland’s 23 high schools was almost 10 percentage points higher than that of white students.

One reason for this is that minority students far outnumber white students.

“The larger the number, the higher the percentage,” said Karen Thompson, Deputy Chief of Curriculum and Instruction at CMSD.  She says out of 1800 African Americans that should have graduated on time, 1300 did.

For non-Hispanic white students at the start of high school, the number was 395, with 268 graduating on time.

Thompson says Cleveland schools have learned the dropout problem affects everyone, regardless of race or ethnicity.

“One of the big shifts for us as a community is that it can’t be any one group, or one person, or one category of people in the school," said Thompson.

"It needs to be a community of support around the students.”

Speaking at ideastream, CMSD chief Eric Gordon said that an income gap tops his list of concerns.

“We have to continue to pay attention to the gap within our city, but the real gap – the gap that matters – is that my kids, my student scholars, when they graduate – that the diploma means the same thing it does in Beachwood or Solon," said Gordon.

"That’s an income gap problem for us.”

Karen Thompson cites programs like “Closing the Achievement Gap”, initially started for African-American boys, as another initiative helping to improve graduation rates in the city.