Education Letter to the Editor

Protocol Can Help Schools Make Informed Decisions

February 01, 2011 1 min read

To the Editor:

Robert Granger raises important issues in the Commentary “Learning From Scale-Up Initiatives” (Nov. 17, 2010), regarding the challenge of knowing when programs shown to work at small scale can be reproduced more broadly in new locations. One area Mr. Granger underscores as needing study is the array of conditions under which programs operate that could potentially have an impact on their effectiveness. We are involved in a project where such conditions are the focus of study.

The Internal Coherence Assessment Protocol, or ICAP, is an initiative developed in the Strategic Education Research Partnership, or SERP, Boston field site under the leadership of Richard Elmore of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, in collaboration with senior administrators in the Boston public schools. The ICAP is a diagnostic process designed to assess a school’s level of readiness to implement and sustain an intervention. It is built on a developmental theory that places schools on a spectrum of “internal coherence,” or the ability to summon the resources of the institution to the successful adoption of any instructional improvement strategy.

We assess a school’s level of internal coherence on three domains: leadership for instructional learning; organizational structures and processes; and efficacy beliefs among faculty. ICAP data are compiled into a school profile, reflecting a specific school’s capacity to support deliberate improvements in instructional practice and student learning across classrooms. We present profiles to practitioners as a launch for a series of supports for building this capacity, tailored to the developmental needs of a particular school.

If we are to make progress on scaling up programs with demonstrated outcomes for students, Mr. Granger is right that education needs more than practical wisdom to inform our decisions about which sites are prepared for successful implementation. The internal-coherence diagnostic process is one such clinical tool that can help practitioners and policymakers in this work.

Michelle Forman

Internal Coherence Project Director

SERP Institute

Cambridge, Mass.

The writer is a doctoral candidate studying with Richard Elmore in education policy, leadership, and instructional practice at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

A version of this article appeared in the February 02, 2011 edition of Education Week as Protocol Can Help Schools Make Informed Decisions