Ohio Appalachian Collaborative Blog

It takes teamwork to make the dream work

Ohio Straight A Innovations–the OAC Continues to Realize Cost Savings

by Tracy Najera, Senior Director, Battelle for Kids | Nov 03, 2015

The Ohio Appalachian Collaborative (OAC), made up of 27 school districts, received $14.9 million, the largest Straight A Innovation grant awarded in 2013. This purposes of this grant are to:  

  • Increase student access by developing a strong academic foundation for students by increasing access and opportunities for more demanding coursework that’s designed to result in college credit.
  • Improved efficiencies by improving purchasing power and efficiency to stretch resources and create a process for collaborative action.
  • Effective program oversight by establishing a plan of oversight for the project between the districts and partners, making sure that fiscal and operational management are highly effective.

Slide1The OAC has demonstrated continued success during the past two years of this project and has shared some lessons learned and promising practices with districts throughout the state to encourage forward momentum.

 Building a Movement

The OAC school districts in partnership with Battelle for Kids has embarked on an ambitious vision for extending learning opportunities to all children in member districts regardless of their wealth or access. The OAC’s Dual Enrollment Course Catalog supports college credit eligible distance learning for rural students. To date, approximately 265 courses are made available across districts through a variety of experiences. The system and logistics to offer these courses more widely amongst collaborative member districts are still in development. Further, each of these courses are cross-walked to related career pathways supporting students’ planning for beyond high school whether that includes higher education, workforce credentialing, or further training. 

Students and their families continue to reap the benefits of this program. In the 2014–2015 school year, students earned more than 9,746 college semester credit hours, meaning that families have avoided more than $2.4 million in tuition costs. The realized savings are expected to increase over the next several years and persist as each district continues implementation of their dual enrollment programs. 

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Sharing and Learning across the Collaborative

The Collaborative has a number of workgroups to ensure that learning and sharing is occurring at all levels. The Fiscal Implementation Group; Technology Director’s Group; and the Steering Committee are each tasked with focused implementation, solution-finding, and sharing ideas around what’s working.

For example, the OAC Technology Committee was formed to plan, support, and oversee the technology initiatives as determined by the governing authority of the OAC. The Technology Committee meets regularly to review and discuss current digital issues while making recommendations for enhancement and improvement. Specifically, the OAC Technology Committee is charged with issues involving:

  • Connectivity/broadband testing and reporting
  • Management of accounts and general support of the Professional Learning Community (PLC), powered by Schoology
  • Resource sharing and group purchasing
  • Virtual course sharing (troubleshooting and support)
  • Development of a comprehensive OAC Technology Plan

The Professional Learning Community, powered by Schoology and implemented in September, 2015, provides access to over 3,000 teachers to seven courses designed around six key areas of professional learning. OAC teachers and administrators have the opportunity to engage in coursework that yields graduate credit and/or a badge.  Currently, there are 3,042 users in the shared platform from the OAC and we aspire to have all our OAC users curating, building, and sharing content as we strive to increase access and opportunities for our students through our network. This shared effort will serve as a “force multiplier” which in turn will reduce the need to purchase separate systems and reduce costs for all member districts.  Slide2

Making Innovation Affordable

At the beginning of this project, it was assumed that sustainability for each school district beyond 2018, would cost $40,000 on an annual basis. As a result of some early efficiencies realized with the shared professional learning platform powered by Schoology and the Dual Enrollment Course Catalog, the sustainability costs have been revised down to $20,000 per district beginning in July 2018.   

Cost savings must still be realized and the OAC is working toward creation of approaches that will support smarter and cost-effective partnerships. Early in the project, the OAC realized over $260,000 in cost savings from pooled purchasing of education technology. 

To ensure that these results are not isolated incidents and become the “way we do business”, the OAC districts are working toward shared leadership in technology by developing a technology committee working to share collective resources and support shared interests among the technology directors and coordinators of the OAC. Through the collaborative space powered by Schoology, technology teams will come together to create a shared technology plan, alleviating issues with infrastructure and support pooled purchasing of digital content. Through the platform teachers will also be able to create content and resources that can be supported by the technology directors and coordinators and shared across the collaborative. 

Creating Shared Stories of Success

To realize these successes and move the work forward, districts have signed on to shared measures of success and improvement. Later in the fall, the OAC will be rolling out a performance management dashboard to help each of the groups as well as other internal and community stakeholder to begin learning more about the combined performance of the Ohio Appalachian Collaborative Straight A Grant in key areas:

  • Academic Performance
  • Career Pathway Engagement
  • College and Beyond
  • Financial Performance

School Success = Community Success

We believe that the generated value of the Ohio Appalachian Collaborative will have a positive impact on long-term community support and engagement. We do this by continuously demonstrating significant return on taxpayer investments by preparing more young adults for a prosperous future thus enhancing the region and making it more attractive to potential employers.