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Ohio Partnership for Excellence in Paraprofessional Preparation
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Our Mission

Our Mission: OPEPP Helps Students FLY

The OPEPP Mission

The Ohio Partnership for Excellence in Paraprofessional Preparation (OPEPP) builds the capacity of local education agencies so that they include and leverage paraprofessional educator professional development within their overall plans for improvement. Through professional development and partnership initiatives, school districts and educational service centers create scaffolded supports based on the consultative and professional development support that OPEPP offers. The gains made through this work serve as essential structures that enrich the form and function of how paraprofessionals work within a school setting.

Action Planning Outcomes that change Childhood Outcomes

Districts and ESCs walk through and action planning process with OPEPP consultants as their guide. They spend three years making concrete gains which can change the face of their schools. These gains become district wide parts of their system and lend themselves to future gains in the classrooms for the children who attend the school. For example, when paraprofessionals in one district walked into their jobs with a clear understanding of their role and a supportive and welcoming onboarding process, they were more likely to stay in their role. What could seem like a simple outcome from an action planning process could be life changing for children when the district has a paraprofessional who is comfortable enough in their role to stay and support the children year after year. Districts and ESCS also use OPEPP’s open access Professional Development options to provide PD on the Go! for their educational staff. Below is a list of all the supports that paras and teams of educators can receive when their district connects to OPEPP.

Breaking it down

The Ohio Partnership for Excellence in Paraprofessional Preparation builds the capacity of school districts and educational service centers when they are looking to create system wide supports that lift up paraprofessional preparation. By lifting up support teams, districts impact student success in inclusive settings within their schools.
 

Students

Individual children serve as the center point for the work that OPEPP and the partnering districts accomplish. Student outcomes are a direct reflection of the way a district lifts up their paras and prioritizes the preparation supports they offer them. Paraprofessionals are a direct connection to student success. Everything comes back to the student.

Parent and Peer Supports

Para work is enriched when they are viewed as primary intervention team members and when they become liaisons bridging the relationships that happen within an inclusive setting. Paras can help by collaborating and communicating across all members of the team especially when connecting to the parent.

Paraprofessionals

By way of the OPEPP partnerships, site coordination and the team building that comes with these supports, paraprofessionals are offered a seat at the table as one of the crucial problems solvers in the district. The processes involved with partnerships ensure that paraprofessionals’ voices are heard. They are encouraged to add meaning and validity to the work the district does to support students within the school.

Educators and Service Providers

OPEPP encourages partnering districts to ensure that the team make-up includes educators (general and special educators and related service providers) who value and lift up the work of paraprofessionals in their schools. This kind of shared and collaborative professional work that happens as part of OPEPP teams has been linked to improved childhood and school outcomes ( Grissom et al., 2021, p. 58). Team members feel valued and relationships form that build solid programming for children in the classroom.

Administrators

When school and district level administrators lift para preparation as a priority, they create opportunities for paras to have voice, choice, purpose, and preparation that prioritizes their contributions to the school. This support encourages para retention and recruitment making the district strong in their institutional make up. As an organization, OPEPP encourages leadership to be supportive as they undertake the processes around partnering for the sake of paraprofessional preparation. A supportive leader nurtures others on their team all the way up to the children in the school. Supportive leaders build others’ capacity along the way (Louis, Murphy, and Smylie 2016; Grissom et al., 2021). This leads to a transformational process that improves teaching, learning and inclusive education. We know these things can change childhood outcomes (Grissom et al., 2021).

Consultants

Consultants from OPEPP can build a district’s capacity to serve and support paraprofessional preparation by consistently showing up to help design and facilitate action plans. They lead the conversations and encourage the district’s growth.

OPEPP

The OPEPP organization reaches out to districts through supporting their consultants, holding Spring and Fall academies and through recruitment of resources from researchers around the country who study the work of paraprofessionals. OPEPP also provides and manages Professional Development modules and workshops that are open access opportunities for paraprofessionals and the teams that support them.

Working to Strengthen Paraprofessional Preparation and Development Across Ohio

OPEPP works to support systems that build paraprofessionals’ skills and knowledge. Using a partnership model, we engage schools, districts, and regional providers through online learning opportunities and professional development. OPEPP’s delivery of training and technical assistance helps districts honor and develop the capacity of paraprofessionals to support the improvement of teaching and learning for each student. OPEPP is coordinated through the University of Cincinnati’s Systems Development & Improvement Center (UC SDI), and is located in Columbus, OH.

 

Our Goals and Expectations

OPEPP District Partnership

A district partnership with the Ohio Partnership for Excellence in Paraprofessional Preparation (OPEPP) leverages districts intentions to provide high-quality instruction to all students as the motive for improving staffing patterns and educational practices. Participation in OPEPP is voluntary, but partner districts are expected to actively engage in OPEPP’s professional development and technical assistance activities for three years. Like many commitments, an OPEPP partnership may mean a district needs to change its routines and dedicate additional time and resources to build the capacity of all personnel in order to create inclusive educational settings that meet the needs of all learners. This document provides an overview of the goals and expectations of OPEPP district partners who are committed to making incremental changes to improve opportunities and outcomes for each student.

OPEPP GOALS

  1. To improve the capacity of instructional teams by mobilizing and coordinating all personnel, including paraprofessionals
  2. To improve district, school, and teacher use of paraprofessional services to advance learning for all students
  3. To provide guidance and supports to districts in helping build the professional knowledge and skills of teachers for their work with paraprofessional colleagues
  4. To provide guidance and support to districts in helping build the knowledge and skills of paraprofessionals
  5. To help districts and schools deploy staffing arrangements that fit with best practice while also addressing local needs
  6. To inform state-level policies and actions to promote the use of inclusive service delivery models that support the learning of all students

PARTNER DISTRICT EXPECTATIONS

  1. Development of an OPEPP District Team: Districts identify an employee to serve as the district’s OPEPP site coordinator. Districts establish an OPEPP team of five to 10 members who engage in shared leadership with the OPEPP site coordinator to complete OPEPP activities.
  2. Completion of the OPEPP District Action Planning Process: Districts complete a needs assessment and use the information from it to identify a priority goal(s). Districts create a detailed strategic action plan informed by the needs assessment to prioritize areas of improvement and identify action steps to achieve district-identified goals.
  3. Implementation of the Action Plan, Including Participation in Relevant Professional Development: Districts follow the steps outlined in their action plan to actualize their district-identified goals. When needed, districts identify professional learning needed by their staff to achieve their goals. Districts create bi-annual progress reports that explain their efforts and preliminary outcomes related to their action plan.
  4. Participation in Regular OPEPP Team Meetings: OPEPP district teams meet at least monthly with their OPEPP consultant to work on their action steps, discuss problems and potential solutions, and obtain support and guidance from team members and the OPEPP consultant to make progress toward the district’s goals. 
  5. Participation in OPEPP Academies: OPEPP offers three academies each year. In early September, district site coordinators attend a virtual fall pre-academy. In late September and late spring (April/May) multiple district team members and other relevant personnel attend the in-person fall and spring academies in central Ohio.

OPEPP Consultant: Roles and Responsibilities

  1. Active Team Member: Meet with other consultants, OPEPP project staff, and the OPEPP evaluation team to discuss OPEPP resources and offerings to continuously improve OPEPP activities and outcomes.
  2. District Team Builder & Process Specialist: Support districts to complete data collection activities and develop an action plan that is based on each district’s needs and goals. Support district personnel to lead their teams toward more effective and inclusive practices.
  3. Observer & Resource Linker: Observe partner district team meetings to understand current practices. Identify effective practices that can be expanded and problem areas that can be improved. Provide the district with support and resources as appropriate.
  4. Joint Problem Solver: Provide support, encouragement, and recommendations to districts as they work through challenges. Help districts make timely progress through problem-solving processes.
  5. Reflective Educator: Create reports and presentations that demonstrate the work with partner districts and why suggestions have been made for a specific course of action. Bring these to team meetings for reflection, discussion, and skill building.

Site Coordinator: Roles and Responsibilities

  1. Change Leader: Guide the vision and priorities of the OPEPP work. Ground the team’s work in the district’s core values and in the larger system changes that are occurring in the district or that the district leadership wants to move forward. 
  2. Delegator and Moderator: Scaffold the participation of team members and facilitate team meetings. Lead the pace of meetings and ensure everyone has the opportunity to participate. Support the team in coming to consensus and making a plan for the work. Delegate responsibilities across team members and create a timeline for achieving project goals and objectives.
  3. Team Coordinator: The team coordinator (s)tasks that take care of OPEPP logistics, such as securing the location for team meetings, sending announcements and invitations to meetings, sending meeting agendas and materials to all team members in advance, coordinating with your OPEPP consultant and the OPEPP staff. 
  4. Recipient of Ideas: Provide opportunities for team members to share their perspectives. Be open to other team members’ ideas and willing to hear and consider their diverse perspectives. Bring all ideas to team meetings and have a meaningful discussion to facilitate final decision making. 
  5. Final Decision Maker: Make final decisions that ensure closure and completion of team tasks. Make strategically important decisions based on time constraints, resources available, team discussions, the amount and type of information available and the number of stakeholders.

OPEPP Overview and Goals

The Ohio Partnership for Excellence in paraprofessional Preparation (OPEPP) provides professional development supports and services for district and ESC leaders, educators, related service providers and most importantly, paraeducators. These types of PD services include online learning modules, online facilitated workshops, professional development on the go and research and practice briefs  and videos on important topics for paraeducator preparation.

Improve district, school, and teacher use of paraprofessional services to advance learning for all students

Improve the capacity of instructional teams by mobilizing and coordinating all personnel, including paraprofessionals

Provide guidance and supports to districts in helping build the professional knowledge and skills of paraprofessionals

Help districts and schools deploy staffing arrangements that fit with best practices while also addressing local needs

Inform state-level policies and actions to promote the use of inclusive service delivery models that support the learning of all students

All five goals have strong connections to, or directly address, district-level staffing practices. A significant focus of OPEPP’s work for the past nine years has been to help school districts make effective and efficient use of paraprofessional educators.

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