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District and school personnel often look to their superintendent to serve as the facilitator. If the superintendent assumes this role, he/she has effectively removed him/herself from participating as an active member of the DLT. The Wooster City School District, and other districts around Ohio, credited their progress, in part, to the support provided to the district by external facilitators assigned from Ohio’s State Support Teams (SSTs) or Educational Service Centers (ESCs).

In Wooster’s case, this external facilitation was provided by SST Region 9, which is based at the Stark County Educational Service Center. In fact, Wooster leadership has some advice for other districts in Ohio –

“rely on strong external facilitation to implement a sustainable process, allowing the superintendent to participate as a team member, rather than a facilitator”

For information about how districts used assessment and accountability to increase performance as part of district-wide improvement, go to:

http://movingyournumbers.org/tools-and-resources/district-downloadable-resources

Because the SST facilitators were part of, but separate from the district team, they were able to ask the tough questions, probe and redirect, and push back as needed (Telfer, 2011). Part of the work of the OIP facilitator in building the capacity of the district to make and sustain improvements was to develop internal facilitators – often district-level or central office personnel – who could focus on implementation and learning across the district.

The importance of strong facilitation of the OIP, particularly for districts in the early stages of OIP use, should not be underestimated. Facilitators support open and honest discussion and dialogue among team members, many of which have not worked side-by-side to review district data and identify critical needs. As described in the OLAC on-line module, OIP Stage 0: Preparing for the Ohio Improvement Process (OIP), they also:

  • Serve as a critical friend who is a trusted partner, advocates for the success of the work, asks thought-provoking questions, ensures responses are open and honest, and provides constructive feedback;
  • Manage and direct meeting processes using a range of facilitation strategies;
  • Understand meetings and make decisions affecting meeting dynamics; and
  • Keep the group focused on outcomes (OLAC, 2012).

View the OLAC On-line Module: OIP Stage 0

Increasingly, the importance of strong external facilitation has been recognized as an important factor in district and school improvement. For example, a 2010 study by the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) emphasized the role of districts in developing and articulating a vision and set of practices for the work of all schools, crafting a strategic plan that communicates that vision, creating the conditions needed for aligning all policies and resources to the plan, and establishing collaborative and supportive working relationships within each school. The authors encouraged districts to work with external providers to help them identify goals and “create structures that enable school and district leaders to meet performance goals and serve students better (p. v).

The OIP has been used by state leadership to establish and strengthen Ohio’s Statewide System of Support (SSoS). Part of the development of a viable and sustainable SSoS has been the development of strong internal facilitators (e.g., district personnel, often central office personnel, who serve as the internal facilitator of the improvement process) who can work hand-in-hand with external facilitators and gradually assume the ongoing role of facilitator as the external support is reduced.

In Honig and Copland’s (2010, 2008) work on the role of the central office in facilitating improvements made by schools, the authors assert that districtwide improvements in teaching and learning do not happen without substantial engagement by the central office in helping all schools build their capacity for improvement. Similarly, MacIver and Farley-Ripple (2008) found that when central office personnel worked in isolation, provided conflicting directives and/or reinforced competing priorities to schools, the progress of the entire district was negatively affected.

Listen to an Ohio superintendent share the ways in which external facilitation – provided through the area State Support Team (SST) – facilitated his/her district’s use of the OIP and the district’s capacity to focus and implement the core work of the district.

Superintendent Use of External Facilitation

For resources to support effective facilitation, go to:

http://www.ohioleadership.org/index_dashboard.php

Interactive Assessment Tool

Download the Superintendent's Assessment Tool from MovingYourNumbers.org

This District Self-Assessment Guide is intended for use by district leadership teams and school-level leadership teams in gauging the district's degree of implementation and scale of actions associated with effective practices identified by Moving Your Numbers.

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Supporting Partners

  • University of Dayton, a supporting partner of the Ohio Doing What Works program
  • Educational Service Center of Cuyahoga County, a supporting partner of the Ohio Doing What Works program
  • State Support Team 3, a supporting partner of the Ohio Doing What Works program
  • Ohio Department of Education, a supporting partner of the Ohio Doing What Works program
  • Buckeye Association of School Administrators, a supporting partner of the Ohio Doing What Works program
  • Ohio Leadership Advisory Council, a supporting partner of the Ohio Doing What Works program

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