The power and ability to tell the truth is a powerful thing. Ever read something that just struck at your very core? Ever read something that made you want to shout out loud even though you were in public? Perhaps I have an unnatural affiliation with words being an English professor, but reading the Boston Consulting Group’s unflinching report of the Columbus Metropolitan School District made me want to dance.
Now, people are often wary of reports because they are often just that – a report. Statements and more often than not restatements of issues that everyone knew existed, except it comes from a different group in a different year which is often the only novelty that exists about the report.
People are also wary about reports because they tend to lend themselves more to inaction than actual action. The problems are identified or re-identified and then we admire the beauty of the data. It only seems to serve as a way to further detach ourselves from the actual lives, emotions and problems from which the data is derived. Thus the action taken is number driven instead of people driven and the effort to change the problem fails.
Yes, there have been plenty of reports produced about the Cleveland schools and things need to change and problems exist, but we’re still a good system and etc. I have read these reports and never had hopes that things would actually change. Not so secretly, the district, parents, students, and politicians had very little faith that academically CMSD could rise above the deep inertia in which it exists. But then again, these reports were self reports and on a good day, an individual might know that they have a problem but barely admit to the truth of the problem; even when directly confronted with the stark baldness of that truth.
What is beautiful about this report is that the district, to its credit sought an outside analysis based on funding from The Cleveland Foundation and The George Gund Foundation. In doing so, it looks like the district has finally finished the five steps of grief and in that acceptance there is hope and a glimmer of a chance that CMSD is indeed about to change for the better.
However, it is unfair really to call it a report, because it is in truth a strategic development plan. The CMSD Strategic Development Initiative: Progress update and path forward, lays out starkly the challenges that exist within the district. As a document it is not bogged down with overly technical terms, but terms that any parent or interested citizen can understand which should make it easier for the district to achieve its goals, because it is a community document.
It notes that given the national and local context of education today CMSD must implement dramatic changes. It sums up the district’s system by stating that the quality of education provided is not sufficiently preparing children. It goes on to note:
“As expectations for success have risen, CMSD has been unable to keep pace
- % of schools in academic watch or emergency has increased
- few effective or excellent rated school options exist within the district
Graduation rates remain unacceptably low and many who graduate are not prepared for college or the workforce”
The update also provides maps of the areas with failing schools and not surprisingly, several academic neighborhoods have all failing schools. It underlines the importance of not only fixing public schools, but giving parents vital options that will allow their child to become a productive citizen. The plan will also seek to engage other education stakeholders such as charter, private, parochial schools and city leaders. These partnerships are vital to educating our children because the act of educating our children is a shared responsibility.
As like all good strategic development documents, this document is the product of the first phase of development in the quest for change. Perhaps more importantly the update lays out a clearly defined path to move forward.
The second phase which will soon occur if it has not already begun will seek to engage the community, synthesize research and community feedback to create a system-wide plan, translate the plan to school-by-school decisions using a decision tool and will deliver the plan to the board for approval in December.
This is a document that is well worth reading and could actually be a starting point for other districts that find themselves in academic watch or emergency such as Youngstown City Schools. It is said that the truth will set you free, well as the CMSD continues its process of change hopefully it will be the children that will benefit.
– Tisha Brady