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Cleveland Forges Ahead

Despite budget cuts, inconsistent information, and multiple benchmarks to meet, officials in the Cleveland, Ohio, Municipal District are chipping away at NCLB requirements, and trying to improve communication with the public about the law. Included: Cleveland's efforts at improvement.

In general, district officials in the Cleveland (Ohio) Municipal School District applaud the spirit of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act and agree that schools should be held accountable and should work toward improvement. However, the implementation has been rocky due to unclear, changeable, and/or late information from the state and federal governments. Erbert Johnson, the district's chief financial officer, summed up district thinking when he said, "The biggest challenge is the fact that the law is evolving. The advantage is that we have the opportunity to create the best solutions to the challenges."

Because Cleveland is an urban, high-minority, high-poverty district, it must pass all 82 benchmarks every year to meet state criteria for adequate yearly progress (AYP) -- far more than its suburban counterparts.

Cleveland improved its academic performance in 2003. Passing six of the 22 state indicators used for accountability, Cleveland moved out of the "academic emergency" category for the first time since report cards were given. However, the district did not make AYP, due to low participation by Asian students, Hispanic students, and English language learners.

Based on the 2003 performance, 27 individual Cleveland schools were identified for school improvement or corrective action for school year 2003-04. Twelve were in year one of improvement and scheduled to offer school choice. Six were in year two and will offer choice and supplemental services. Nine were in year three and crafted a specific improvement plan, in addition to offering choice and supplemental services.

Not many parents took advantage of school choice in 2002-03 or 2003-04. Late notifications have been a factor. Ohio finalized its list of schools in need of improvement in August 2003. So, most parents received their notification of choice by mail only a week or so before school started. The following year Cleveland bypassed the need for a separate mailing by including information about choice and supplemental services in the district's "school profile," a fact sheet about each school sent to parents annually.

Few also took advantage of supplemental services, in part because of communication problems.


The greatest challenge the district faces with the NCLB highly qualified teacher requirement is finding enough special education teachers. The district currently has a partnership with Cleveland State University to prepare and provide alternative certification for special education teachers, many of whom start working for the district as substitutes or teaching assistants.

SOURCE: Center on Education Policy

To read the full report, see A Look Inside 33 School Districts: Year 2 of the No Child Left Behind Act.

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