The National School Boards Association (NSBA) Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel saw firsthand the successes of an urban school district during a tour of high-performing schools in Cleveland last month.
Gentzel met with Cleveland Municipal School District (CMSD) CEO Eric Gordon and CMSD Board Chair Denise Link in addition to CMSD board members Willetta Milam and Robert Heard. Milam also sits on the steering committee for NSBA’s Council for Urban Boards of Education.
Gentzel was particularly impressed with the school district’s emphasis on student achievement and its innovative programs.
“I toured schools in an urban district that clearly is achieving significant gains in student achievement, thanks to a reform plan that enjoys broad community and political support,” said Gentzel. “I was especially impressed with the district leadership’s commitment to being held accountable in very public ways for their work.”
One school even had a “countdown clock” for student achievement, he added.
Other exceptional programs included dual-language elementary programs, a partnership with Cleveland State University, and the district’s pioneering partnership with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.
Gentzel toured the museum with Ohio School Board Association Executive Director Rick Lewis to learn more about its curriculum, which integrates rock n’ roll into prek-12 lessons, from business to technology to English/language arts. A lesson might ask students to build a persuasive argument for their favorite band to be admitted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame or teach business and contract management skills.
Lewis, for one, noted that “a feeling of excitement and optimism for the future flourishes throughout the CMSD.”
“The Board of Education and community have collaborated to create several standout schools and programs that offer assurances for higher student achievement,” he said. “As you walk through the halls of these schools, you can’t help but feel the contagious spirit of faith and energy. The results of their transformational plan show that excellence is possible even in an urban district with enormous socio-economic challenges.”
Gentzel toured two top-performing schools, Buhrer Dual Language School and Campus International School on the campus of Cleveland State University.
Buhrer Dual Language School is a K-8 school with the first dual language education program in Ohio. All classes are taught in English and Spanish, and Buhrer students become proficient in both. Students earn high school credit in Algebra I and Spanish I.
Situated on Cleveland State University’s downtown campus, Campus International School, is the only International Baccalaureate candidate school in the CMSD and prepares students in grades K-6 for international citizenship with a rigorous and comprehensive global curriculum. Each year the school adds a grade level until it will become a K-12 school.
“Our Board members and our CEO appreciated the opportunity to meet with Tom to discuss our school district’s ongoing transformation plan and our efforts to increase the number of high-performing schools in Cleveland,” said Link.