Cleveland Takes Testing Message Door to Door

By Catherine Gewertz — March 06, 2007 1 min read
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It wasn’t Sunday, but Cleveland’s Army of Believers was out rapping on doors. They were preaching the gospel of passing Ohio’s high school graduation test.

Eugene T. Sanders, the district’s chief executive officer, had called for an “army of believers” to help the district’s 57,000 students do better.

On a 20-degree Saturday morning, Feb. 24, about 300 volunteers—parents, City Council members, and local corporate employees—answered his call.

In small groups, they visited the homes of nearly half the district’s 4,100 sophomores, telling parents about the Ohio Graduation Tests, which will be given in five subjects March 12-25. Students take the test for the first time in 10th grade. This year’s seniors are the first who must pass it to earn a diploma.

Mr. Sanders himself led one group, answering parents’ questions and leaving behind pamphlets on test-taking tips. Another round of home visits was scheduled for March 3.

Last spring, two-thirds of Cleveland sophomores passed the graduation test’s writing portion. Only three in 10 cleared the hurdle in science. Fewer than one-quarter passed all five parts.

Making a better showing on the tests is critical if Mr. Sanders is to keep his August 2006 promise to move Cleveland up from the second-lowest of five levels in the state’s accountability system.(“Cleveland Seeks Move From Zero,” Sept. 6, 2006.)

To improve districtwide performance and expand parent choice, he also announced plans recently to open a host of academies, including single-gender and residential programs. He’s been doing automated phone “blasts,” sending postcards, and hitting hip-hop radio stations to publicize his initiatives.

“Cleveland is in dire need of a turnaround, and we’ve been able to strike a vibe with the community around the urgency of what we need to do,” he said.

Cheryl Lane, the mother of two Cleveland school students, planned to join other volunteers going door to door on March 3.

“If a word of encouragement is all that’s needed to help [parents and students] prepare, then it’s worth it,” she said.

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A version of this article appeared in the March 07, 2007 edition of Education Week

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