CEO Sanders shares academic goals for Cleveland Municipal School District
by Chuck Hoven

(Plain Press, November 2007) At an October 1st Community Forum at Zone Recreation Center, Cleveland Metropolitan School District Chief Executive Officer Eugene T.W. Sanders offered some insight into the academic planning for the district.

Dr. Sanders said his administration would be focusing on four key areas as work continues to improve the school district: the achievement gap, graduation rates, innovation and professional development.

Speaking of the achievement gap, Sanders said over the next three years the district would be working to “make our third graders on level with any average third graders in the state of Ohio.”  As part of that effort Sanders said teacher/student ratios in grades K-3 will be reduced to 1 teacher to every 20 students.

The current graduation rate for Cleveland Metropolitan School District students is 55%, said Sanders. “That is unacceptable. What we have done and what we are doing is laying the framework to advance that percentage to a much higher level,” said Sanders. He said an upcoming mandatory meeting with parents of high school seniors would review what was expected of students as they worked to finish their last year of high school and to meet the requirements of the Ohio Graduation Test.

Under the category of innovation, Sanders said the district hoped to open a new high school in the fall of 2008, which would focus on Industrial Design. He said the new school would be a STEM academy focusing on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. Other innovations already implemented this year include single-sex elementary schools and the Ginn Academy, which serves high school boys.

The fourth component of the district’s focus, professional development, would include continuing development of teaching and other building staff, developing leaders to help move the school system forward, said Sanders.

Staffing ratios

While Sanders presented a clear goal of 20 students or less  per teacher less in grades K-3, goals for other grades and types of staff were less forthcoming. Sanders asked his staff to follow up on a request for additional staffing information from the Plain Press.

CMSD Chief Academic Officer Eric S. Gordon responded that the goal in grades 4-8 is to have no more than 28 students per teacher. District data  indicates that grades K-3 currently average less than 17 students per classroom. In grades 4-8 the district averages less than 23 students per teacher.
At the high school level, Gordon says the district’s goal is that no teacher will have more than a total of 170 students in the teacher’s classes. Although this means an average high school class of 28 students, the district plan does not call for limits to sizes of individual high school classes. No data was provided on current average classroom sizes in the district’s high schools.

Gordon provided the Plain Press with data on the number of CMSD administrative and support personnel  in various categories. However, no goals for ideal staffing levels or student to staff ratios were provided. Gordon says that is typically done as part of the annual budgeting process, which was completed for this school year in spring, 2007. Those budgeting decisions are reflected in the number of staff in district data.

The district currently lists 204 people as serving as school administrators with titles such as campus administrators, principals, assistant principals and small group leaders.

The district has 154 media specialists in the K-8 schools and 40 media specialists in the secondary schools.

The district reports 76 speech and hearing therapists, 50 nurses, 25 occupational therapists, 8 physical therapists, 2 mobility therapists and 2 audiologists.

The district has 5 social workers for which it provides funding. It lists 72 guidance counselors and 74 school psychologists.

The CMSD currently has 110 buildings and roughly 55,000 students. While the district lists no student to personnel ratios for these staff, a source familiar with the workload assigned to school psychologists provides some insight into the impact of district staffing levels.

Our source says that in an urban setting each school building should have a full time school psychologist, and there should be a ratio of 300 students to each school psychologist.

The school psychologists are the school personnel best equipped to identify troubled youth and get them into special programs or provide them with needed special services.

Under the current system the CMSD’s 74 school psychologists are not only responsible for testing, evaluations and re-evaluations of the district’s 55,000 students,  but also are responsible for reviewing evaluations and re-evaluations of the 19,000 charter school students and additional Cleveland students that use vouchers to attend private schools.

This brings the ratio of students to school psychologists to over 1,000 to one. Under these staffing levels, school psychologists spend much of their time reviewing required evaluation forms and have little time to devote to meeting with students and their families.


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