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Cornerstone Connections

Been There, Done That?

February 1, 2015 - OLAC Admin

Since 2007, the OIP has been used as the cornerstone of Ohio's approach to supporting districts in leveraging sustainable system improvement. As the process was developed and refined over the past several years, a common and consistent vocabulary and aligned set of tools (e.g., protocols, rubrics such as the Ohio 5-step process) was developed for coordinating the foundational work of Ohio's regional providers in facilitating and supporting the ongoing improvement efforts of districts, schools, and community schools around the state.

As new SST personnel are employed and introduced to the OIP, and as "new" districts are identified as being in need of improvement for the first time (including districts that may have been designated excellent or effective in the past), it is especially important that members of Ohio's statewide system of support (SSoS) understand at a deep level the intended outcomes of OIP use, and the relationship between OLAC essential practices (i.e., the what) and OIP structures and tools (i.e., the how).

Unlike many states around the country, Ohio intentionally established its SSoS to be statewide in scope and systemic in nature, requiring all regional providers to be grounded in the use of the OIP. Based on the belief that improvement is everyone's responsibility and that all educators should share the responsibility for the success of all students, the process and its associated tools and products (e.g., professional development) were designed to be universally applicable and relevant to all districts in the state, regardless of improvement status or designation.

In creating Ohio's SSoS, the state intentionally (1) restructured roles so that everyone's work was designed primarily to improve the capacity and performance of someone else; and (2) systematized and unified the work - away from discrete projects/initiatives to a common approach - around a focus on supporting districts in the full implementation and follow through of district-identified strategies/actions based on district-identified needs.

In addressing the challenges associated with sustainability of effective practices noted by education leadership experts like Michael Fullan and Richard Elmore, Ohio redefined scale in the development and continual refinement of the OIP by: (1) developing strong external normative structures for practice (such as Ohio's Leadership Development Framework and OIP facilitators materials and modules); (2) developing organizational structures that intensified and focused, rather than dissipated and scattered, engagement in challenging practice; (3) created intentional processes for reproduction of successes (e.g., use of a quadrant-lead structure, use of the Ohio 5-step process); and (4) created structures that promoted learning of new practices (e.g., aligned leadership team structures such as the DLT, BLTs, and TBTs).

SSTs, collectively, form the linchpin of Ohio's SSoS. As such, the state has committed to the continuous development of SST personnel. So, what has been learned over the past six years that can continue to inform the work of SST personnel as they support district-wide continuous improvement?

First, OLAC's work - supported by an increasingly robust body of research in support of distributed leadership models - provides a vehicle for identifying the "right" work, articulating essential practices needed for instructional capacity building and improvement. Another significant learning involves the realization that closing the achievement gap for subgroups of students (e.g., students receiving special education services) is dependent on closing the implementation gap, and closing the implementation gap, in turn, requires shared learning, responsibility, and accountability for all children. Finally, we learned that the best intervention for all children is effective instruction, and that sustaining the kind of change needed to support higher levels of learning for all students requires districts to think and work differently than they have in the past, committing to improving instructional practice in every classroom in every building in the district.


A series of questions was used to facilitate regional dialogue and discussion among SST personnel, leading to the identification of issues associated with common challenges encountered by Ohio's OIP facilitators/coaches. An initial list of strategies and resources, delineated below within four major categories, represent a jumping off point for collaborative sharing and learning among SST and OLAC facilitators as they work to support districts and their schools. SSTs are encouraged to add to the list of strategies based on their experience, and to also provide examples of tools or resources that have been used and that may be helpful to other regional personnel as they encounter similar issues or problems of practice.

The major categories are:

  1. Fostering Superintendent and Principal Engagement
  2. Supporting Deeper Levels of Understanding
  3. Overcoming Resistance
  4. Extending and Sustaining Improvements in Adult Learning