Systems Development & Improvement Center


The CECH Systems Development & Improvement (SDI) Center at UC fosters the development, implementation, and evaluation of PK20 education research and demonstration efforts that improve opportunities to learn for children and youth, their families, and the professionals who support them. At the core of many Center activities is a commitment to advocacy on behalf of all children, as well as partnerships - with school districts, with professional associations, with institutions of higher education, with regional providers, with the state - that improve conditions and outcomes for students with disabilities and other marginalized groups of learners (e.g., learners who are economically disadvantaged, learners at risk of school failure for a variety of reasons, etc.).

Special emphases include supporting (1) systems improvement activities that result in increased equity and improved capacity to meet the educational needs of all learners; (2) technical assistance and dissemination activities - particularly in the area of low incidence sensory disabilities - that respond to and address local, regional, statewide, and national priorities; (3) personnel preparation and continuous learning activities that improve professional capacity to meet effectively a wider range of student instructional and educational needs; (4) program evaluation activities designed to support program improvement and effectiveness; and (5) other innovative efforts, consistent with the priorities of the Center and of CECH, customized based on client need and request.


Systems Change

The systems change area of work is focused on supporting adult learning across all levels of the education system as a means of increasing the performance of all students, including those with disabilities and other at-risk learners, as part of whole-system reform. The foundational intent of these efforts is to raise expectations and outcomes through redefined leadership, strengthened instruction, and improved learning. Emphasis is placed on sustainability and scalability of change processes and improvement efforts through their alignment to established statewide systems and structures. Examples of initiatives under this operational purpose are: The Ohio Deans Compact on Exceptional Children; the Ohio Leadership for Inclusion, Implementation, and Instructional Improvement (OLi4) project; and ongoing work to support the Moving Your Numbers initiative.

Technical Assistance and Dissemination

The TA&D area of work is focused on improving outcomes for children with low incidence and sensory disabilities through the provision of ongoing technical assistance and dissemination to educators, related services personnel, families and community members, regional providers, and state-level agencies. The aim is to design, develop, and deliver professional development, training, and consultation that facilitate learning among adults within the system to, in turn, foster higher levels of learning for all children. Program efforts are designed to assess the needs of targeted individuals and groups in relationship to the area of low incidence disability, to develop activities that build capacity and support knowledge and skill acquisition, and to monitor stakeholder growth and development. Partnerships with existing local, regional, and state systems are leveraged to improve conditions and outcomes for learners with low incidence sensory disabilities. Examples of initiatives under this operational purpose are: The Ohio Center for Deafblind Education (OCDBE), the Deafblind Supplemental project, and the Vision project.

For more information, see:

The Ohio Center for Deafblind Education (OCDBE)

Personnel Preparation & Continuous Learning

The personnel development area of work is focused on contributing to Ohio's pool of educators qualified to meet the needs of all students, including those with unique learning challenges. Through the use of partnership models and cohort structures, the Center seeks to enhance educator preparation mechanisms and increase the alignment between preservice training and ongoing professional development in the field, thereby strengthening the connections between PK12 and higher education systems. Emphasis is placed on improving instructional practice and program improvement through the integration of evidence-based practices that optimize benefits for all learners. Examples of initiatives under this operational purpose include the Ohio Partnership for Excellence in Paraprofessional Preparation.

For more information, see:

The Ohio Partnership for Excellence in Paraprofessional Preparation

Program Evaluation

The program evaluation area of work is focused on conducting participatory-based evaluations of programs that have the potential to improve outcomes and results for students, professionals, families, and others engaged in educational or social service endeavors. Current initiatives under this operational purpose include: the Center for Sensory Disabilities Evaluation

Customized Services

The Center provides customized services on a fixed-price basis in response to client-identified needs, and will be expanding this component in the coming year. Examples include serving as collaborative partner for the What Matters Now Ohio Coalition, part of a three state national initiative coordinated through Learning Forward with support from the Carnegie Institute; supporting the UC ESC’s work to evaluate Ohio’s Early Literacy Pilot and State Systemic Improvement Plan; use of the OLi4 model to support individual school districts and/or school buildings (e.g., Avalon Elementary School, Columbus City Schools); and the twice-yearly book review held in collaboration with BASA.

What makes the Center unique?

A portion of the Center's work supports and is integral to the ongoing work of the state education agency in Ohio. The Center Director and Lead Coordinators have extensive experience in developing and contributing to improved state systems and are respected in their fields. Rather than being viewed as vendors, their strong and longstanding associations with state and regional personnel, and their frequent and ongoing interaction with state officials, contribute to their position as allies and partners in furthering the collective work of the state. At the same time, Center leadership has strong ties to several national and federally funded centers dedicated to improving results for all learners, contributing to the Center's reputation for doing high-quality, relevant, and useful work that has the potential to improve outcomes and results on a multi-state scale.

Key Partners

The Center works with several key partners across multiple projects and initiatives. Ohio-based partners include WordFarmers Associates, a small, woman-owned research, evaluation, and instructional design company located in rural southeastern Ohio; the Buckeye Association of School Administrators (BASA) and the Ohio Leadership Advisory Council (operated through BASA); the Ohio Association of Elementary School Administrators (OAESA); the Ohio Association of Secondary School Administrators (OASSA); the Ohio Center for Autism Low Incidence (OCALI); the Ohio Department of Education; the Ohio Department of Higher Education; and Ohio's state support teams (SSTs). Key partners located outside Ohio include Implementation Scientists; Creative Leadership Solutions partner Dr. Brian A. McNulty; the National Center on Educational Outcomes (NCEO), based at the University of Minnesota; the CEEDAR Center, based at the University of Florida; the Oregon Deafblind Project and the National Center on Deaf-Blindness (NCDB), both based at Western Oregon University; and The Advocacy Institute, located in metropolitan Washington, D.C.

Recent News

UC CECH Systems Development & Improvement Center Provides Leadership to Ohio Deans Compact Statewide Initiatives

Two recent Compact initiatives - both grounded in a commitment to social justice and equity - have statewide impact. The Incentive Grant (IG) program provides funding to institutions of higher education in the state to design/develop preparation models that are based on inclusive pedagogy and incorporate authentic partnerships with PK12 partners. Fourteen new incentive grants are currently being awarded to Ohio institutions of higher education across the state. A second related activity involves supporting IHEs and districts to work together to prepare all teachers to teach all children to read. Improving Literacy Partnership Grants are being awarded this fall to IHEs in Ohio in collaboration with state leaders and the Higher Education Literacy Steering Committee – a committee of the Ohio Deans Compact.