Moving forward with reform
Some great thinker once said “education is the foundation upon which we build our future.” In the United States, this statement certainly rings true as a lack of, or access to quality, education has a symbiotic relationship with poverty – which is as natural a companion to one another as peanut butter is to jelly. Like most of the public school districts in urban areas around the country, the Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD) faces an uphill battle to provide quality educational opportunities in an underfunded and under resourced district. CMSD’s student body can be characterized as one varying in levels of grade preparedness, with a number of students lagging so far behind their peers it would take several years of re-teaching previous curriculum just to get back on par with classmates. Although successfully addressing such complexities in any urban school district has yet to be accomplished in its totality, many districts and schools around the nation have found innovative ways to combat some of these challenges and improve outcomes for students. In doing so, districts have begun yielding better quality schools, higher graduation rates, and increasing the number of college ready students.
In 2012, the city of Cleveland started making strides in refining public education with its reformation initiative known as The Cleveland Plan for Transforming Schools. As an intern with the Cleveland Transformation Alliance, I’ve had the good fortune to actually work on executing portions of the plan. The Alliance is charged with ensuring that CMSD maintains fidelity to the Cleveland Plan’s strategy to grow the number of high-performing options in its portfolio of district and public charter schools.
One way in which CMSD and the Alliance look to improve the quality of schools in the district is by educating and engaging parents on the importance of making informed decisions on the schools they choose for their child to attend – whether that be a district school or public charter school. I’ve been very active in this effort at the Alliance this summer – doing everything from meeting with community development corporations (CDCs) and local non-profit leadership, to visiting each branch of the Cleveland Public Library, and getting out in the community to take part in outreach events. Along with working to forge stronger partnerships with these community fixtures, I’ve been distributing the Cleveland Transformation Alliance’s 2nd Annual School Quality Guide – which is a great tool for parents to learn everything from a school’s state grade, to its progression over a three-year period, and the attendance percentage for teachers and students at each school. Even though the school year is out for the summer months, I’ve still been able to catch up with students from all over the city at recreational centers and talk to them about their various options for the upcoming year. If education is the foundation to build upon a bright future, than the School Quality Guide can be seen as somewhat of a blueprint. Parents in the city of Cleveland now have the opportunity to make sure that “foundation” is solid – by choosing the school which provides the best fit to serve their child’s educational interest and needs!
Khalid Ali, a graduate of Cleveland State University with a major in Urban Studies, is placed at Cleveland Transformation Alliance. Khalid supports the School Quality Project Manager with development of community engagement events for students and families within the city of Cleveland; works with Community Development Corporations and Transformation Alliance School Quality Ambassadors to support community engagement events and engages with community stake holders to solicit school reviews and increase attendance at Board of Directors meetings.