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A Partnerships Case Study

Bold Steps to Better Schools: Cleveland Metropolitan School District

“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
Cleveland story photo

Learn about all our district partnerships on our District and State Partnership webpages.

71%
School leaders control 71% of their school budgets, vs. 2% previously.
91%
91% of participants said that ERS support gave them a much deeper understanding of strategic school design.
“My school’s schedule is now centered on what students need instead of adults.”

THE CHALLENGE

Cleveland Metropolitan School District was in crisis. It was 2013, enrollment was down 40% over the past 10 years, student achievement was behind most of the state and the district faced a $63M deficit. As a response, the district—with the support of local and national philanthropists, including the Cleveland Foundation, the George Gund Foundation, and the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation—launched the Cleveland Plan in 2012. It was a radical, comprehensive district transformation to a “portfolio model,” in which schools are given more autonomy over their staffing, budgets, scheduling, and curriculum, in exchange for high accountability for performance.

HOW DID ERS HELP CLEVELAND’S PLAN?

ERS helped the district translate the plan into realistic and informed action. Our analysis provided data and recommendations to fully understand the resource implications associated with the plan, as well as guidance for implementation.

THE OUTCOMES:

Although there is still much work to do, Cleveland has made measurable progress since 2012. In 2015, district enrollment increased for the first time in 30 years and has remained stable since. Graduation rates were up 20 percentage points between 2010 and 2017, and CMSD has shown stronger improvement than Ohio’s other urban districts in K-3 literacy.

Specific outcomes that ERS work has influenced include:

From the ERS Strategic Resource Map

  • A ground-breaking teachers’ contract received an unprecedented 71% approval rate from teachers and offered, for the first time in the district, differentiated compensation based on responsibility and results, more collaborative planning time, and more flexibility for schools on how to schedule that planning time.
  • A decrease in overall spending on special education through increased efficiencies.

From Student-Based-Budgeting implementation

  • School leaders control 71% of their school budgets, vs. 2% previously, with significantly more flexibility
  • District leaders now integrate budgeting and strategic school planning before schools receive their budgets. This means principals have time to identify needs, goals, and resource priorities.
  • Central office departments are reorganized into cross-functional Network Support Teams to serve as strategic partners. After this redesign, 90% of school leaders reported that meetings with their Network Teams were helpful.
  • Enrollment projections for multiple student types are more accurate and incorporate principal feedback resulting in 300% reduction in the number of staff that had to be moved between schools during fall adjustments.
  • Local community is more engaged with at least 60% of families reporting being told about their school’s budget during the Fall Open Houses.

From Strategic School Design support

Cleveland CEO Eric Gordon cited five of the ERS pilot schools as exemplars of progress is his “2015 State of the Schools” speech. The nine “Transformation” schools developing innovative school designs featured new instructional leadership roles for teachers, intervention/enrichment blocks, and staff to support social-emotional learning.

91% of participants said that ERS support gave them a much deeper understanding of strategic school design. Quotes from principals include:

“My school’s schedule is now centered on what students need instead of adults.”
“This process is empowering, and it’s good to know someone is listening to us.”
“Now I don’t have to call central to beg for money; I can just make decisions.”
“This process has been richer and deeper than any [planning document] I have ever written.”
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