Ohio Appalachian Collaborative Blog

It takes teamwork to make the dream work

The Ohio Appalachian Collaborative: Home Grown Innovation

by User Not Found | Jun 14, 2013

By Brad Mitchell

This is my first blog. People tell me it needs to be visual, informal and “sticky”. I know I am going to fail miserably but I promise to get better. I resisted including a link to a picture of a grumpy cat or a cute toddler. My task is to quickly tell a compelling tale about the origin and value of the Ohio Appalachian Collaborative (OAC) involving 21 districts, 2,500 educators and more than 30,000 students. For your consideration, here are two (hopefully) sticky messages.

  • Home grown education innovation works, particularly in rural communities.
  • The OAC has helped to amplify and accelerate home grown innovation.

Let us start with the second point. By working together and coordinating their professional development around home grown talent focused on formative instructional practice and college and career readiness, our districts have moved the needle. 

  • Since 2009–2010 the number of OAC districts using ACT QualityCore® end-of-course exams increased from 24 percent to 100 percent
  • Since 2011, OAC schools have added 262 more courses aligned to ACT QualityCore, and 86 percent saw an increase in the percentage of students achieving a college-ready score. 
  • Finally, 81 percent of OAC districts increased their building-level scores. 
Here is a link to a video that makes these data “pop” (check off visual, informal and sticky blog criteria). 


Now to the first point―there is an Appalachian advantage. The people of southeast Ohio have a strong and long culture and history of adapting to challenges and necessities by getting a lot from a little. David Wilhelm, a born and raised Appalachian venture capitalist makes a very powerful case in the video below that innovation is in the core DNA of the region. 

The Ohio Appalachian Collaborative feeds off this history and spirit. Participating districts understand that necessity truly is the mother of invention and that no one can afford to go it alone in the new educational wilderness shaped by the Common Core, Race to the Top and changes in school finance. Together, we have leveraged home grown professional development innovations around five strategies:

  • Building collaborative learning communities, networks and teams
  • Embedding formative instructional practice
  • Using student growth and achievement analytics in the best interests of the learner
  • Aligning to new Ohio academic standards
  • Making peer coaching a common and valued experience

To quote a true rural sage, Dolly Parton: “If you don’t like the road you’re walking, pave another one.” That is exactly what the OAC is doing. 

We're excited about the OAC Blog and continuing to share the story of the OAC, our districts, our work, and our culture of collaboration. You can also connect with the OAC through Twitter at @OHAppCollab.

Thanks to all who are engaged in the journey and the next few bends in the road ahead will truly tell the tale.

Brad Mitchell is a Senior Director at Battelle for Kids and leads the Ohio Appalachian Collaborative.