Telling a deeper story about student success in Cleveland

Piet van Lier

NOTE: All photos used in this piece were graciously provided by the Cleveland Transformation Alliance. The photo at the top of this page features HBCU Preparatory School student Meiyah Hill and school principal Tim Roberts.

Standardized test scores are the most common measure of academic success in our nation’s K-12 schools. While they are an important indicator, most observers would agree that tests don’t tell the whole story about what’s happening in our public schools.

Given the recent changes to Ohio’s assessments and standards and their impact on test scores statewide, the need to tell a deeper story about public education has become even more evident.

In Cleveland, we know that Cleveland’s Plan for Transforming Schools is enabling both district and charter schools to create new learning environments that are laying a foundation for sustainable academic improvement. Progress is slow and not always visible from the outside, but it’s happening.

That’s why the Cleveland Transformation Alliance recently partnered with Civic Commons ideastream to share powerful stories about education in Measuring Success Behind the Numbers. The conversation included three storytellers:

  • Student Meiyah Hill talked about how HBCU Preparatory School, a charter middle school in Cleveland, made her feel part of the school family and challenged her so she was ready to get into one of the Cleveland Metropolitan School District’s highest-performing high schools, the School of Architecture and Design at John Hay;
  • Parent Larry Bailey told the story of how he went from being a drop-the-kids-at-the-door dad to leading his school’s parent organization;
  • Principal Lee Buddy, Jr., into his second year at a district school, spoke of his vision and work to expand partnerships and opportunities for his students.

Cleveland parent Larry Bailey

After the audience heard these stories, we sat down with three educators whose job it is to make sure thousands of Meiyah Hills can experience the transformative power of education, as many Larry Baileys get pulled into their children’s education, and hundreds of leaders like Lee Buddy are empowered to make a difference at the school level.

Lee Buddy, Jr., principal of Wade Park School, with one of his students

Connecting the individual stories to the bigger picture of transformation in Cleveland were Diana Ehlert, CMSD central office administrator; JaNice Marshall, who leads efforts at Cuyahoga Community College to engage K-12 students and parents in preparation for college and career; and Mary Ann Vogel, chief educator at the Intergenerational Schools, part of Cleveland’s successful Breakthrough charter school network. The panel’s dialogue focused on school culture, the importance of the broader community in transformation efforts, and how success is measured on an ongoing basis. We wrapped up with a lively Q&A session.

Student Meiya Hill (center), with her family

As the Transformation Alliance found in its second annual report on the implementation and impact of the Cleveland Plan, released in September 2016, progress in Cleveland is too slow, but we expect that changes happening now will lead to clearer academic gains in the future. The stories and dialogue shared in Measuring Success Behind the Numbers provided more evidence of the transformation that’s taking shape in our city.

Piet van Lier is Executive Director of the Cleveland Transformation Alliance.

The Cleveland Transformation Alliance is a public-private partnership created to serve as a voice for accountability and advocacy. The Alliance has four work roles: assess all district and charter schools in Cleveland; communicate with families about school quality and options; ensure fidelity to the Cleveland Plan; monitor charter school quality and growth.


On October 27, 2016, the Alliance will host a dialogue focused on how deeper partnerships are driving educational innovation in Cleveland. See  for more information.