Great Lakes East Comprehensive Center


Great Lakes East and the Ohio Department of Education

A Look Back at Years 1-5

In 2007, the U.S. Department of Education approved Ohio as one of six states to implement a different model for distinguishing between those districts that require intense interventions and those that need less intervention. This new model places districts and schools into three risk categories: low-, medium-, and high-support, based on a measure of student subgroups not making adequate yearly progress (AYP) in reading and mathematics. Each category brings with it those interventions required by law (e.g., provision of supplemental educational services) as well as a requirement to move through the Ohio Improvement Process (OIP) (see Appendix B). Under Ohio’s Differentiated Accountability Model, every district identified as medium- and high-support must engage in OIP, and all districts identified as low-support are encouraged to engage in OIP. Currently, more than 300 districts and their buildings—about a third of all districts in Ohio—have engaged in OIP.

In 2010, Ohio was awarded $132 million in School Improvement Grants (SIG) funding to support 68 persistently low-achieving schools. In its SIG application, the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) described how school-based interventions would build on the first two stages of OIP. With the Race to the Top award, ODE must implement its plan for support to struggling schools, not only the 68 schools identified for SIGs. A highly effective statewide system of support will be essential to Ohio’s plan for improving all districts and schools. 

Statewide Systems of Support and the Ohio Improvement Process

During the past five years, ODE has made a concerted effort to develop a common language of district and school improvement, increase understanding of improvement processes, and provide universal access to data tools aligned with OIP (see Appendix B). This process articulates four stages: (1) identify critical needs of districts and schools, (2) develop a focused plan, (3) implement and monitor the focused plan, and (4) evaluate the improvement process.

The Great Lakes East Comprehensive Center facilitated a state-level design team composed of regional staff from Ohio’s educational service centers (ESCs), district administrators, and staff from ODE to design a focused district improvement planning process. The result of this work has been a process that all technical assistance providers can use as they work with districts in the state. Ohio’s State Personnel Development Grant (SPDG) has provided an opportunity to test data tools and district and building improvement processes with three district cohorts identified from each of Ohio’s 16 state support regions. The state-level design team also developed the Ohio Improvement Process Facilitator Guide that serves as a resource for both regional OIP facilitators and district leadership teams.

During the past five years, much work has focused on the design of data tools that provide a structure for OIP: Decision Framework Tool (Stage 1), revised Comprehensive Continuous Improvement Planning Tool (Stage 2), and Implementation Management and Monitoring Tool (Stage 3). Great Lakes East has worked with the state-level design team and ODE staff to develop training opportunities for SPDG districts and for regional and district-based facilitators to better use these tools and facilitate their use in the field.

In its Year 4 and 5 work, Great Lakes East focused on collaborative efforts with the state-level design team to articulate structures and processes to support district and building leadership teams as they implement and monitor focused improvement plans (Stage 3) and to evaluate the impact of the plan on student performance and adult implementation (Stage 4). In Year 5, the state-level design team identified existing measures that could provide data and information about key indicators at the building, district, regional, and state levels. These indicators will provide valuable data to each level of the system about how well processes are being implemented and whether there are also changes in adult practice and student performance over time.

In Year 5, Great Lakes East collaborated with the state-level design team to envision a state system of support that functions as a regionally based system of training for OIP facilitators of high-, medium-, and low-support districts. Such a system will depend on a highly trained cadre of trainers who are regionally based and who will have the capacity to design and facilitate ongoing training for state support teams, ESC staff, and district-based staff. A draft Facilitator Competencies Tool has been designed and will be tested in Year 6. This tool will be used by regional managers, state support teams, and others to help build the capacity of the state system of support to deliver consistent, high-quality training.

Standards and Assessment Adoption

In Year 5, Great Lakes East supported statewide adoption of revised K–8 academic content standards in science and social studies as well as the Common Core State Standards in mathematics and English/language arts. Great Lakes East assisted Ohio in the design and facilitation of regional stakeholder meetings to gather public input focused on the revised state standards and to solicit feedback about additional state standards that should be included in the Common Core State Standards. The Ohio State Board of Education formally adopted these standards in June 2010. This work sets the stage for Great Lakes East to support rollout and implementation of these standards beginning in Year 6.

Credit Flexibility Implementation and Support

The adoption of a credit flexibility plan by the Ohio State Board of Education in March 2009 set the stage for implementation of the plan by early-adoption districts and planning for implementation on a larger scale. Great Lakes East collaborated with an internal credit flexibility working group to support state implementation planning efforts as early-adoption districts began to adopt and put into practice credit flexibility measures. Great Lakes East assisted ODE in capturing Ohio models and strategies of credit flexibility implementation in the form of a credit flexibility case study series. Great Lakes East also collaborated with the National High School Center to interview staff from four SEAs that have already implemented similar credit flexibility policies in Oregon, Florida, Texas, and Massachusetts and produced a summary report. The IDEA Partnership worked with Great Lakes East to develop a shared work site that will include credit flexibility documents, existing guidance documents, and examples of assessments that districts might use. In addition, Great Lakes East collaborated with the IDEA Partnership and ODE to begin training moderators of communities of practice to facilitate sharing of challenges and best practices during implementation. Finally, Great Lakes East provided technical support in the design and production of a series of credit flexibility Web conferences that complemented state guidance documents.

American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009

The current ARRA funding to Ohio and flow-through funding to districts and what that means for monitoring and accountability purposes has focused much of the work at the leadership level at ODE. Now, with Race to the Top (RTTT) and School Improvement Grants (SIG) funding, ODE is prepared to engage participating LEAs (536 districts and charter schools), higher education institutions, the regional system of support, and other stakeholders in implementing plans described in Ohio’s RTTT application.

As noted in the technical assistance plan for Year 5, Great Lakes East has supported ODE as it worked through the process of submitting their RTTT and SIG applications through forums, Web conferences, and meetings designed to solicit ideas. The planned Year 6 work directly supports two major areas described in Ohio’s RTTT application: college and career-ready standards and aligned assessments and support for struggling schools.

Summary of Goals and Evidence of Capacity Building

The technical assistance goals codeveloped with ODE complement and support Ohio’s RTTT plan. The overarching goals of ODE’s work with Great Lakes East during the past five years have been as follows: (1) to improve the quality of technical assistance provided to schools and districts not making AYP through statewide systems of support and (2) to build a data system and data tools that enable teachers, principals, and district administrators to improve achievement for all students.

Photo of teacher with student.

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