Ohio Appalachian Collaborative Blog

It takes teamwork to make the dream work

What makes an effective team? Reflections on the OAC Leadership Team Study

by | Mar 24, 2014
By Mark Glasbrenner, Battelle for Kids

In Ohio’s $400 million Race to the Top (RttT) initiative, district-level Transformation Teams were required as a condition of joining RttT to oversee the program implementation at the district level. 

The teams have played a critical role in the success of Ohio’s RttT initiative, as well as the Ohio Appalachian Collaborative (OAC), which received support from the state RttT grant. They are responsible for ensuring that districts meet their RttT commitments, and ideally, they provide leadership that moves RttT participation beyond compliance to system transformation and sustained improvement. 
As Ohio’s RttT initiative winds down, many districts might be wondering if their Transformation Team was effective or successful in meeting its goals. What are the practices of effective Transformation Teams? And how can these effective practices assist districts as they transition from the final year of RttT implementation to sustaining reform?

Working with OAC RttT Transformation Teams, the Ohio Education Research Center (OERC), and the Strategic Research Group (SRG), Battelle for Kids engaged in a two-year researcher-initiated study of OAC Transformation Teams to help answer these questions. Part of this study included the development of a Diagnostic Tool, designed to examine team functioning and identify successes and opportunities for improvement within and among leadership teams. Essential questions that were explored as a result of the survey included:
  1. What is the structure and composition of district leadership teams in the OAC?
  2. What are the common features and practices of effective leadership teams?
  3. Do the Race to the Top Transformation Teams exhibit those features?
  4. What role do Transformation Teams and leadership teams play in sustaining reform efforts?
The Diagnostic Tool asked respondents to indicate their level of agreement to questions organized around 23 factors:

The Diagnostic Tool was administered online between April and July 2013 to members of Transformation Teams in the 21 OAC districts:

So what did the Diagnostic Tool tell us about highly effective Transformation Teams?

In high-growth, high-achievement districts, common themes of leadership teams that emerged include:
  • Teachers on the teams are selected by purposeful selection and by volunteering.
  • The team identified areas that are over- and under-represented.
  • Team members were compensated.
  • The team has a formal leader who is collaborative.
  • Decisions. are made through discussion and consensus
  • Work is delegated by volunteering, with some active leader involvement.
  • Work is completed during the meetings. Any work done outside of meetings is done more individually than collaboratively.
  • Teachers on the teams feel valued, and believe they have personal influence.
  • Team member roles and responsibilities are clearly defined.
  • Team member role expectations are shaped in the initial phases of team development.
  • The leader ensures that team members understand their role as a team member, and communicates team activities and decisions to other staff
  • The team discusses sustainability.
Results from the team study indicate the importance for creating a culture for teamwork. This culture has positive impacts on the bottom line results and organizational success for any 
school district. 

As strong leadership teams handle the many issues involving education and deal with the long term issues of continuous improvement and growth, effective leadership teams create the structure for high levels of staff engagement and productivity as well as a foundation for the sustainability of initiatives.

For more information, contact Mark Glasbrenner at Battelle for Kids.