EducationEducationScience teacher and studentGive NowGive to

We believe every child in Greater Cleveland should have access to a high-quality education that prepares them to be independent thinkers, engaged citizens and successful adults. With our partners and donors, we are focused on ensuring that all students have access to quality education, from early childhood on, leading to successful careers.

Our work in education is characterized by four through-lines:

  • Engagement: It takes a village. We convene stakeholders and partners across the community to align efforts and set common goals.
  • Systems Change: We look at the big picture. We work across sectors to change processes, structures and the allocation of resources to better serve students.  
  • Advocacy: Systems change requires policy change. We advocate for these necessary policy changes at the national, state and local levels.
  • Accountability: We need to know that what we’re doing is making a difference. We work with partners to measure and report results to the community.

Promoting Quality and Equity Across the Education Continuum

Since 2006, the Cleveland Foundation has helped define and support long-term strategies to reinvent education in Cleveland. 

Early Childhood

Quality educational experiences before the age of five are critical for a child’s development and long-term prospects. As part of the Cleveland Plan for Transforming Schools (see below), we have supported PRE4CLE, a plan designed to:

  • Increase the number of high-quality preschool seats in Cleveland
  • Help preschool providers improve their quality rating
  • Connect families to quality preschool programs

So far, PRE4CLE has delivered on its goals. Since PRE4CLE began its work in 2014:  

  • There are 2,290 more high-quality preschool seats in Cleveland – a 65% increase.
  • 2,046 additional children are enrolled in high-quality preschool – a 72% increase.


Since 2012, we have been deeply involved in the creation and implementation of the Cleveland Plan for Transforming Schools, a groundbreaking education reform strategy championed by the Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD) and its partners that ensures every Cleveland Neighborhood has a variety of great schools from which families can choose. Cleveland Plan goals include:

  • Grow the number of high-performing District and charter schools in Cleveland and close and replace failing schools
  • Redefine the role of CMSD’s central office, with an emphasis on governance and support roles, and transfer authority and resources to the schools
  • Create the Cleveland Transformation Alliance to ensure accountability for all public schools in the city and facilitate school choice for families
  • Emphasize high-leverage system investments (e.g. preschool, talent recruitment and retention, technology, career and college readiness, etc.)

The Cleveland Plan has made exciting progress:

  • CMSD’s graduation rate has ranked among the fastest growing in the state, increasing 27.9 percentage points, from 52.2% in 2011 to 80.1% in 2020.
  • Graduation rates for Black and Latinx CMSD students have outpaced both the District’s graduation rate and State graduation rates for those races, eliminating the longstanding achievement gap.
  • Public confidence in the Cleveland Plan’s progress was demonstrated when 61.1% of Cleveland voters voted to pass Issue 68, a 10-year renewal levy with a 5-mill increase.

Higher Education

We have built partnerships to improve student readiness, access and success in higher education.

  • The Cleveland Foundation helped to create the Higher Education Compact, a group of over 70 organizations that reports on progress through an annual dashboard and is focused on getting CMSD students to and through college.
  • We co-created the Top 50 Scholars Program with College Now to help high-performing CSMD seniors access selective colleges and universities.
  • In partnership with our donors, the foundation administers more than 60 scholarship funds that offer aid to students each year. Learn more about the Cleveland Foundation scholarship program here.

Say Yes Cleveland

Say Yes to Education, a national framework to improve postsecondary access and success for all, was launched in Cleveland in 2019. Say Yes Cleveland builds on and takes our work across the education continuum to the next level by providing Cleveland students the necessary academic and nonacademic wraparound supports to successfully access and participate in postsecondary education. Key components include:

  • Scholarships: To address the barrier of college affordability, Say Yes provides qualifying students with scholarships that fill tuition funding gaps at eligible four-year colleges and universities, two-year institutions, and accredited certificate programs. In Say Yes Cleveland’s first year, enrollment rates at colleges and universities increased five percentage points, demonstrating the importance of financial support.
  • Support Services: School-based Say Yes Family Support Specialists link students and their families to the academic and social support services they need —including tutoring, legal aid, housing assistance, health and mental health services, and access to high-quality out-of-school programming. To date, the Say Yes student support program has been implemented in 42 CMSD and partnering charter schools. All remaining CMSD and partnering charter schools will have support services by 2023.

Learn more about Say Yes Cleveland here.

Connecting Students to Current and Future Economic Opportunities in the Region

We have supported a number of initiatives and programs designed to connect Cleveland students to promising careers in Northeast Ohio.  

School-based programs

Opportunities for middle and high school students to explore future career options and develop relevant skills.

  • True2U: This in-school mentoring program introduces every CMSD 8th grader to career opportunities in our region and helps them explore their interests, identify their strengths and set personal goals for their future, starting with high school choice.
  • CMSD Career Programs: CMSD currently offers 29 career-technical focused programs across 21 of its high schools. Many of these programs focus on high-growth, high-demand industries including health, information technology, manufacturing, and engineering.
  • CS4CLE: Beginning in 2016, we helped to launch this CS4All initiative, which aims to make computer science (CS) classes available in all CMSD schools. Currently, CS curriculum is available in 15 high schools and nine elementary schools. CS4CLE partners with Microsoft’s Technology Education and Literacy in Schools (TEALS) program, pairing trained computer science professionals with classroom teachers.

Employer-driven programs

Working closely with local partners, we have supported programs that align educational opportunities with the needs of local sectors and employers.       

  • MAGNET’s Early College Early Career program is a pioneering youth apprenticeship program designed to help Cleveland students prepare for lucrative careers in Northeast Ohio’s advanced manufacturing sector. The RITE Board is the leading industry-driven IT workforce alliance in Northeast Ohio. Administered by the Greater Cleveland Partnership (GCP), RITE accelerates the development of a diverse, highly skilled IT workforce in our region.

Community strategy and ecosystem

Since late 2019, we have worked with over 100 individuals representing 40 organizations—including CMSD, employers, local youth development and workforce nonprofits, and other partners—to create a community-wide ecosystem linking CMSD students to career pathways and living-wage jobs. The first phase of this work has been three-pronged:

  1. Designing and phasing in a career awareness and exploration program for CMSD students in grades 6-12;
  2. Strengthening and developing programs and processes that directly connect students to employers—particularly those in high-demand sectors; and
  3. Creating the Student Workforce Advancement Group (SWAG), a career exploration and job placement program for CMSD high school seniors.

This effort continues to evolve as we work with our partners to embed this strategy into our community and build a robust career pathway ecosystem throughout Cleveland.

Want to learn more about what’s happening in education in Greater Cleveland? Check out our Education e-newsletter archive: