Nov 14, 2023 - News

Cleveland Schools CEO aims for 90% graduation rate

A bald Black gray-suited man in profile speaking at a lectern.

Warren Morgan addresses Cleveland leaders at last week's State of the Schools. Photo: CMSD News Bureau

In his inaugural State of the Schools speech last week, Cleveland Metropolitan School District CEO Warren Morgan outlined an ambitious set of five-year goals.

Driving the news: Perhaps the most notable is that within five years, he wants the district's graduation rate to be 90%.

Why it matters: It's a lofty benchmark for the urban district of roughly 35,000 students. Under Morgan's predecessor, Eric Gordon, CMSD's graduation rate climbed from 56% in 2011 to 81% in 2020, but it has dipped to about 74% since the pandemic.

  • In the most recent state report card, CMSD earned 2.5 stars (out of 5), posting its lowest scores in high school graduation rates and early literacy.

What happened: Morgan, who just completed his first 100 days on the job, spent most of his remarks recapping a listening tour he conducted with CMSD students, parents, staff and other stakeholders.

Threat level: He braced the audience for tough decisions on the horizon, as nearly $300 million in CMSD's pandemic relief funding, which was used to upgrade the district's technology infrastructure for remote and hybrid learning, expires at the end of the current school year.

What he's saying: "If everything is important, then nothing is important," Morgan said, "so we have to be strategic about our priorities moving forward."

  • Based on community feedback, those priorities will emerge from a new set of "core values" that Morgan has formalized: Equity & Inclusion, Student & Community Focused, Growth & Learning, Care & Well-being, and Excellence & Achievement.

Plus: He said the district would strive to eliminate performance gaps among racial and ethnic subgroups and would more closely monitor discipline rates by race.

The intrigue: After more than 100 meetings, Morgan said the primary concern students, parents and caregivers articulated was safety and security, both at school and in transit.

💭 Sam's thought bubble: Morgan borrows heavily from corporate vernacular. Apart from the "core values," he referred to comments from the community as "thought partnership" and unveiled a full C-suite of executives who will work alongside him.


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