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Cleveland Metropolitan School District

District Partner 2012-2016

ERS is partnering with Cleveland (CMSD) to map resource use and to support human capital strategy, strategic school design, and the development of a Student-Based Budgeting system as part of the district’s transition to a Portfolio model.

“Our work with ERS has empowered us to truly own our strategy as district leaders and become better partners to the schools we serve.” 
- John Scanlan, Chief Financial Officer, Cleveland Metropolitan School District 

District Facts

Like many urban school districts, CMSD faces several challenges in educating its 43,000 students. It faces a budget crunch, declining enrollment due to population drain and pressure from charters, and student achievement scores that lag the rest of the state. But it is also at a unique moment of opportunity: under the widely-backed Cleveland Plan for Transforming Schools, CMSD plans to transition to a portfolio model that offers greater flexibility and support in return for accountability.

Work Focus


  • Resource Mapping: Conduct a detailed analysis of CMSD’s people, time, and money, to identify how it could use its resources more strategically and equitably to improve student achievement
  • Student-Based Budgeting: Support CMSD in developing a new funding model where dollars follow individual students, based on student need (Also known as Weighted Student Funding).
  • Strategic School Design: Support CMSD in training its first two cohorts of principals in how to identify a vision for their schools, and then organize all of their resources—people, time, technology, and money—around that vision.
  • Human Capital Strategy: Provide research and data analysis on school flexibility, hiring and retention policies, teacher assignment, and relevant laws and contractual provisions to support CMSD as it worked with the teachers’ union on its collective bargaining agreement


  • Student-Based Budgeting, implementation: Support CMSD’s implementation of the roll-out of SBB in 2014-2015, including helping with enrollment adjustments and principal training
  • Student-Based Budgeting, planning: Work with SBB design team to evaluate how the funding model worked in year 1 and what needs to be adjusted for the next year
  • Resource modeling: Build a multi-year financial model that simulates what will happen to the budget and other resources if the district makes different types of reforms; for example, under changes to teacher compensation, school portfolio, central office size and function. Work with leadership to understand how this tool contributes to their strategic plan.

Findings and Outcomes

  • Resource Mapping: Our Strategic Resource Map highlighted where resources were tied up in inflexible structures in CMSD: teacher compensation and career path, special education, and small schools. In addition, our research and analysis highlighted gaps in teacher effectiveness and engagement and in the way the central office was set up to support strategic school design. Insights from this mapping have contributed to the ambitious changes that CMSD has taken on with SBB, human capital, strategic school design, and central office.
  • Human Capital Strategy: Our resource analysis contributed to a ground-breaking collective bargaining agreement with the teachers’ union, approved by a wide majority of teachers. The new agreement includes differentiated compensation with raises based on responsibility and results, gives schools more scheduling flexibility to fit longer days and more collaborative planning time, and authorizes hiring and assignment to be done by school-based teams.
  • Student-Based Budgeting: In the first year of the new SBB funding system, school leaders control 71% of school-level spending, as opposed to 2% under the old model. Additionally, school leaders have new flexibility to use their resources to support strategic school design, such as to increase collaborative planning time, or choose the number and types of instructional positions at their school. In SY 2014-2015, high-needs schools received nearly 6% more total dollars per pupil, on average, relative to their previous year’s budget.
  • Strategic School Design: In the summer of 2013, ERS worked closely with nine schools called the Transformation Schools Pilot, which were given greater resource flexibility and training in Strategic School Design. Each school leader received between 5 and 15 hours of 1:1 coaching, in addition to school design templates, resource data, and workshops. Transformation Schools planned to invest in instructional leadership roles for teachers, intervention/ enrichment blocks, and staff to support social-emotional learning, among many other design features. One principal commented: “My school’s schedule is now centered on what students need, instead of adults.” Teams from 10 more schools received coaching and training in 2013-2014, and 91% of participants said the support gave them a much deeper understanding of strategic school design.
  • Central Office: CMSD created Network Support teams, made up of representatives from finance, human resources, Special Education, and academics, to support each school team as it created a strategic design plan for the 2014-15 year. Network Support Teams helped school leaders make their plans work, given their goals as well as contractual and other constraints, and then reviewed the final plan to ensure it met all requirements. This allows CMSD to provide school leaders with a coordinated response from several departments at once.

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