East Tech High School sets the pace in CMSD graduation rate improvements

The State of Ohio last Thursday released the report cards for school districts, as a benchmark as to how the state’s public schools are performing.

While graduation rates in Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD) high schools rose to 65.9 percent, up from 64.3 percent and up 14 percentage points since 2011, East Tech High School in particular showed stellar results.

In just one year, the school went from a 46 percent graduation rate to a 72.9 percent rate for the 2013-14 school year, the most recent reporting year. “It’s been a process,” says Paul Hoover, East Tech’s co-principal with Temujin Taylor. “We’ve turned it around using a couple of strategies to build the graduation rate at East Tech.”
One of those strategies is moving to an innovative support model with full inclusion, says Hoover, where regular education students and special education students are in the same classrooms. With both a regular teacher and a special education teacher in each classroom, the data proves that all students do better academically.
“It benefitted both groups because all the students have the opportunity to work with two teachers,” explains Taylor. “It’s individualized one-on-one learning. You can walk into a classroom and you won’t know the difference between teachers or students.”
Furthermore, the school has assigned “near peers” – AmeriCorps volunteers in the City Year program – to every core classroom. These volunteers work with students who are struggling through tutoring, mentorship and after school programs. “It’s a very targeted approach,” says Hoover. “It’s not just this year’s graduation rate. We’re setting it up [for continued success].”
Part of that setup is a “no nonsense nurture” approach, explains Taylor, which entails incentives and merits for good performance. Students can earn monetary “Scarab Bucks” (the school’s mascot) based on academics, attendance and behavior. The bucks can then be used at the school store. This year, students can even use their rewards to buy homecoming and prom tickets
“We’ve seen decreases in the number of discipline incidents we’ve had happen in the building,” says Taylor. This is to get back on track.”
Being a CMSD investment school under the Cleveland Plan, Taylor and Hoover say efforts are paying off. “Prior to the Cleveland Plan, everyone got the same resources,” says Hoover. “The Cleveland Plan has given us the flexibility we needed to align the right support with what our students needed.”
Hoover says the jump in graduation rates is just the beginning of good things to come for East Tech students. “This is not a blip, it’s significantly impressive with what’s going on here,” says Hoover. “It’s a good plan, but we have a really fantastic team here. All these people really worked hard.”
The current numbers indicate that this year’s seniors should show a 72 to 73 percent graduation rate, says Hoover, while the upcoming senior class is on track to exceed 80 percent.

Read more articles by Karin Connelly Rice.

Karin Connelly Rice enjoys telling people's stories, whether it's a promising startup or a life's passion. Over the past 20 years she has reported on the local business community for publications such as Inside Business and Cleveland Magazine. She was editor of the Rocky River/Lakewood edition of In the Neighborhood and was a reporter and photographer for the Amherst News-Times. At Fresh Water she enjoys telling the stories of Clevelanders who are shaping and embracing the business and research climate in Cleveland.
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