CMSD summit showcases attendance strategies

CMSD summit showcases attendance strategies


The problem is plain, the effects indisputable. Achievement suffers when children miss excessive amounts of time in the classroom.

On Thursday, Cleveland Metropolitan School District convened the Northeast Ohio Chronic Absenteeism Summit, bringing together districts and other agencies to share strategies for dealing with their mutual dilemma. More than 300 people huddled at FirstEnergy Stadium, home of the Cleveland Browns.

The Cleveland Browns Foundation is the lead partner in the District’s ongoing “Get 2 School. You Can Make It!” attendance campaign. Last school year, the campaign raised average attendance by 1.5 points, to more than 91 percent, and cut chronic absenteeism by 6.3 percent, leaving it at 29 percent.

Ohio defines chronic absenteeism as missing 10 percent of the 180-day school year. CMSD’s campaign seeks to prevent students from being absent even 10 days, citing internal data indicating that is a threshold at which students grow more likely to drop out of school and score markedly lower on state reading and math tests.

Cleveland Metropolitan School District Chief Executive Officer Eric Gordon speaks at the chronic absenteeism summit.
Cleveland Metropolitan School District Chief Executive Officer Eric Gordon speaks at the chronic absenteeism summit.

CMSD is making strides under The Cleveland Plan, a state-approved blueprint for education reform in the city. But Chief Executive Officer Eric Gordon said that to make the reforms effective, the District still had to confront “one big problem.”

“Our teachers can never teach a kid who isn’t there,” he said in opening the summit. “In large numbers, kids weren’t there.”

 Chronic absenteeism, which is particularly high in low-income areas, can result from factors such as a lack of transportation and proper health care. Speakers said schools need to track attendance data and get at the reasons why students are absent.

Hedy Nai-Lin Chang, executive director of the national group Attendance Works, was one of the summit’s headliners.

Chang warned districts not to focus on their daily average attendance, saying a high figure can conceal a rotating corps of kids who are out two or more days per month. She said statistics show that chronic absenteeism spikes in kindergarten, when children are building their academic foundations and again in high school, when struggling students give up.

“We lost them in kindergarten,” she said. “But we never realized we were losing them because we were worried about truancy.”

American Institutes for Research Vice President David Osher said schools need to build relationships with parents and not wait until their children’s absenteeism reaches extreme levels.

“If your only contact with the parent is ‘David’s a problem,’ that’s not a winner,” he said.

A keynote speaker, State Sen. Sandra Williams of Cleveland, backed The Cleveland Plan but insisted it include a requirement that parents have face-to-face contact with teachers at least once a year. Nearly 91 percent of CMSD parents met with a teacher last year.

Williams talked about a new state law that decriminalizes truancy and shifts the emphasis to intervention. She said legislators are working on legislation that would increase the obligation of schools to report and prevent bullying, another reason that children may avoid school.

The summit registration list showed school, social-service and court representatives from as far away as Dayton.

Bruce Chamberlin works with the Parma Area Family Collaborative, an alliance of social workers led by the Parma schools.

Chamberlin said the social workers meet with parents whose children frequently miss school and are developing an academy that will teach parenting skills. He came to FirstEnergy Stadium to collect more strategies.

“We really want to impact absenteeism,” he said. “I want hear other ideas so we can continue to have solid prevention work.”

CMSD school-choice season begins, high school fair to be held on Feb. 1

CMSD school-choice season begins, high school fair to be held on Feb. 1

Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD) has announced it’s officially school-choice season, the time of year when families can exercise their right to decide which CMSD schools their children will attend. This time of year is important for eighth-graders who are deciding where to go to high school. The District allows students to attend any school, provided there is room and, in a few cases, they meet admissions criteria. Through March 13 — or Feb. 13 for most of the schools with admissions criteria — families can submit choices by going to an online open-enrollment portal —

CMSDchoiceflyerCurrent eighth-graders can explore their options with the help of the District’s High School Choice Book, as well as school videos accessible through the enrollment portal. Students and their families also can browse school booths at the annual High School Choice Fair, scheduled from 5 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 1 at Cleveland State University’s Wolstein Center, 2000 Prospect Ave. Free food will be served and free parking will be available in a CSU parking garage at East 21st Street and Prospect Avenue.

Students can continue to make choices after March 13 but may not be guaranteed their first preferences. Demand was so strong at Max S. Hayes High School and  MC²STEM for this school year, the District had to fill ninth-grade seats at those schools by lottery and put other students on waiting lists. If lotteries are necessary this year, the results will be announced March 24.

Read more about the District’s new high school options available year here. If you have questions, call 216.838.3675.

Promise Neighborhood and Cleveland Transformation Alliance partner to support families and schools working together

Promise Neighborhood and Cleveland Transformation Alliance partner to support families and schools working together

Promise Neighborhood and Cleveland Transformation Alliance have joined forces to raise awareness of the importance of family involvement in the education process. Research shows that parent involvement in education can predict a child’s academic success. The benefits of parent involvement increase dramatically if a student has learning differences or is on an Individualized Education Plan (IEP).

Working together with Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD), Promise Neighborhood and Cleveland Transformation Alliance hope to raise awareness and increase understanding of the following:

  • How families can work with schools when there are concerns about a student’s academic or developmental growth
  • When and how to schedule a parent-teacher conference
  • How to navigate the IEP process

“Meaningful parent education and involvement is just as important as academic rigor. By partnering with CMSD and Cleveland Transformation Alliance, we are able to work with our ambassadors and other resident leaders to help parents advocate for their children,” said Richaun Bunton, education performance manager, Cleveland Central Promise Neighborhood.  “We want to help parents understand their child’s individual needs and use this understanding to successfully partner with their classroom teacher, which will ultimately shape the best learning environment for their child. Initiatives like this create and support quality school – parent – community partnerships which cultivate student academic growth.”

School partnership flyer
School partnership flyer

To start to raise awareness of the importance of families and schools working together, Promise Ambassadors will canvass the Central neighborhood supplying educational materials to residents on how families can successfully work with schools on student achievement. The project will also train a group of volunteers, called education partners, to serve as in-person support to families throughout the IEP process or during parent-teacher conferences.

Currently, the project will focus on the Central neighborhood schools: Marion-Sterling Elementary School, George Washington Carver STEM, Alfred A. Benesch Elementary School, Stepstone Academy and East Technical High School. If the program is successful, the plan is for this model to expand to neighborhoods and schools throughout CMSD.

“Our community engagement and outreach work has deepened our understanding of the integral role school, family and community partnerships play in supporting student success. Collaborating with Cleveland Central Promise Neighborhood on parental and family advocacy for students with learning disabilities allows us to serve as a catalyst to strengthen the bonds between the school and the community in the Central neighborhood,” said Steven Lake, school quality project manager, Cleveland Transformation Alliance. “It is our hope that this initiative provides the foundation for a scale-able campaign that can be infused throughout the many neighborhoods across the city of Cleveland.”

Community canvassing with begin in early 2017. Training of volunteer education partners will start in early 2017 with the goal of having education partners available to support students and families in April 2017.

If you are interested in becoming a volunteer education partner please contact Richaun Bunton, education performance manager, Cleveland Central Promise Neighborhood at

Cleveland Transformation Alliance is a public-private partnership dedicated to growing a portfolio of quality district and charter schools. The Alliance works for ensure every child in Cleveland can attend a quality school, and every neighborhood has great schools from which families can choose.