by Chuck Hoven
(Plain Press, July 2017) The Cleveland Transformation Alliance 2017 School Quality Guide is out and available in public libraries and other locations throughout the city of Cleveland. Digital copies of the guide can be downloaded at the Transformation Alliance website at: http://www.clevelandta.org.
This year’s guide has some new features. It compares and ranks the 114-elementary grade Cleveland Public Schools and Cleveland charter schools on Test Performance and Student Improvement within a single school year. The guide also compares 29 of Cleveland’s High Schools on several fronts as well, including test performance, student improvement, four-year graduation rate and the college going rate. In addition to test score results and information like attendance rates, the guide allows each school to submit a profile that offers more information about what may be unique about that school.
Transformation Alliance Executive Director Piet van Lier says the guide is meant to serve as an aide to parents and students when they are in the process of selecting a school. He encouraged parents to visit the schools and their websites to learn more about the schools. Van Lier noted that different factors are important to each person in selecting a school.
To help offer more community input on rating each school, van Lier says the Transformation Alliance has added data from community surveys on each school. The surveys allow participants to share their ranking from 1-5 with other parents/guardians/family members, students, educator/staff members and community members on five questions about school quality. Van Lier says Transformation Alliance staff have distributed the survey in person and typed in the results at some schools. The survey is also available online. Van Lier says the survey results are shared in the School Quality Guide when 10 or more surveys have been completed for a school.
One Cleveland Metropolitan School District elementary school on the Near West Side school that shines in multiple categories is Clark School at 5550 Clark Avenue in the Stockyard neighborhood. For the 2015-16 academic year Clark School ranked 6th out of 114 Cleveland public and charter elementary schools in a comparison of student academic growth in a single school year. The school ranks 9th out of 114 schools in student test performance for the 2015-2016 school year. Clark School was the only school amongst all the public and charter schools on the West Side of Cleveland to score in the top ten among city schools in both student academic performance and student test performance. In a list of Seven Ways to Measure School Quality near the front of the book, Clark School is first among ten K-8 schools “where students with disabilities showed the most year-to-year academic progress;” and it ranks second among “K-8 schools where the lowest-performing students made the most year-to-year progress based on 2015-16 Value Added scores.”
A survey of forty-three school and community members reviewing Clark School rated the school at 4 out of a possible 5 stars. To read survey results and find more information about the school, one can visit the Transformation Alliance website at: www.clevelandta.org. Click on Choose Your School and scroll down on the left of the screen until you find Clark School. Choose the school. Then when a small summary of data about the school appears in the middle of the screen click on the name “Clark School.” That will take you to more information about the school including access to comments filled out by those taking a survey about the school. The comments can be found under “Community Reviews – See all reviews.” The comments about Clark School are generally positive with students generally giving their school four or five stars. The staff members were positive as well, one staff member, while praising the school complained about the increased focus on getting high test results. All the comments from parents and community members were also generally positive. One parent said, “Clark School tries to appeal to the diversity of families in the school environment. I enjoy the outreach programs.” Another parent expressed some concern about the safety of the playground, but otherwise thought the school was safe.
Another feature of the Cleveland Transformation Alliance 2017 School Quality Guide is School Provided Information – a small narrative about each school and what they offer. Clark School’s narrative includes a number of resources and activities available at the school such as: “• Students take dance as well as participate in the recognized program Dancing Classrooms •6th-8th grade students experience Family and Consumer Science – exposure to Financial Literacy, Technology courses, and Career Pathway Studies • Before and After School Tutoring Services and In School Tutoring provided by the Federal Executive Board Program •Girls and Boys Basketball, Girls and Boys Track, Cheerleading and Chess • After School Clubs – Sewing, Safety Patrol, Gaming, Cooking, Arts and Crafts, Early Introduction to Vocational Trades, Book Study and many more • Wrap-Around Services provided on-site dental and vision clinics and counseling services.”
Cleveland Transformation Alliance 2017 School Quality Guide also includes the State of Ohio Ratings. More details including the actual scores for the schools are listed on the State of Ohio School Report Card for which the Transformation Alliance website provides a link. While Clark School is 9th when compared to students in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District in test performance, it lags in test performance when compared to the rest of the State of Ohio receiving only a D on the State of Ohio Report Card. However, it receives an A from the State of Ohio in terms of yearly progress made by students.
Each of the 114 Cleveland Elementary Schools has a similar description in the Cleveland Transformation Alliance 2017 School Quality Guide. The index of the guide allows parents and guardians to see the location of schools in each neighborhood and to compare schools.
Some schools have entrance criterion. For example, Menlo Park Academy, which will be moving to the former Joseph and Feiss building on W. 53rd in the Stockyard neighborhood next year, is a school for gifted students. The school is ranked number one amongst charter and public elementary schools in Cleveland in terms of Student Test Performance, and 26th out of 114 schools in terms of student yearly progress. The school is the only elementary school listed in the School Quality Guide to receive an A grade on the State Report Card in Student Test Performance.
The School Quality Guide also contains a section to advise parents on picking a preschool – listing highly rated preschools by neighborhood.
Transformation Alliance Executive Director Piet van Lier says the School Quality Guide was mailed to families which will have students in the 8th grade this coming school year. He says normally Cleveland students pick a high school by March of their eighth-grade school year. He said some charter schools have February deadlines.
When one looks at the data for High Schools on the West Side of Cleveland, there are a lot of schools with missing test scores and student improvement because the schools have been redesigned as schools within schools and the new entities are too new to have scores available. For these schools, students and parents can look at descriptions of what the school offers as well state ratings. Transformation Alliance Executive Director van Lier encourages students and parents to view the online surveys and data, visit the schools and attend open houses at the schools as well.
For those high schools that do have data available, the Cleveland Metropolitan School District and charter high schools are ranked from 1 to 29 by Student Test Performance and Student Improvement. The book also lists the graduation rate trend from 2012 to 2015 and how many of the school’s 2013 graduates that chose to attend college are still in college within two years of their graduation. Only 29 of the 47 Cleveland Metropolitan School District and charter schools in Cleveland that serve high school students are involved in the head to head comparisons due to the newness of many of the schools. Some of the district’s brand new schools are profiled at the end of the School Quality Guide with a little summary of what they offer.
Of the high schools on the West Side that are rated, Northeast Ohio College Preparatory School at 2357 Tremont Avenue in the Tremont neighborhood is the only school in the top ten in Cleveland in both student test performance (9th out of 29 schools) and student academic growth (4 out of 29 schools). New Tech West in the Jefferson Neighborhood (8th of 29 schools) and Garrett Morgan in the Ohio City Neighborhood (9th of 29 schools) both are in the top ten in Cleveland in terms of student academic growth. Garrett Morgan has the highest graduation rate among rated high schools on the West Side at 80% in the 2015-16 school year. None of the West Side High Schools that were rated had performance index rating higher than a D on the State Report Card.
If you are looking for a school with a 100% graduation rate, there are few schools in Cleveland that meet that criterion, but they may have admissions requirements. One such school is the Cleveland School of Science and Medicine at 2075 Stokes Boulevard in the University Circle neighborhood where the description of the school says, “students will be selected based upon their achievements and commitment to a challenging and rigorous educational experience…”
Of the high schools in the district that have listed test performance data from the State Report Card, the Cleveland School of Science and Medicine has the highest performance index state rating with a grade of B – receiving 96.3 out of a possible 120 points on the state rating scale. Of the high schools in Cleveland with ratings, the Cleveland School of Science and Medicine was the only school to receive a grade higher than a D on the state of Ohio performance index. The school also ranked number one amongst the Cleveland public and charter schools in terms of Student Improvement in the 2015-2016 school year. Its graduation rate was 100% and 88.2% of the school’s 2013 graduates that attended college were still in college after two years.
Editor’s Note: For more information about the Cleveland Transformation Alliance 2017 School Quality Guide pick up a copy at your local library or visit the Transformation Alliance website at: www.clevelandta.org. Help is available finding a book at a location near your home by calling United Way First Call for Help at 211. Each book contains a survey that community members, school staff, students, parents and guardians are encouraged to fill out about schools with which they are involved. Surveys can also be filled out online at myCLEschool.org which can be reached from a link on the Transformation Alliance website.