The Framework

Coherence is a journey—not a destination.

Each systems leader has a part to play to support and produce coherence. Education First, along with the Aspen Institute and Council of Chief State School Offices (CCSS), developed this four-part framework to help leaders pursue coherence. The coherence framework is intended to illustrate the collective elements that support coherence-building. The framework is intentionally circular: the work of coherence is deeply interconnected and does not end. The framework is divided into four elements: Build Focus and Coordination; Cultivate Trusting Relationships, Change Behavior at Scale, and Equitable Ways of Thinking and Working. 

Build Focus and Coordination

A coherent system is focused and coordinated on rigorously implementing a few key priorities. Leaders at all levels of the system create and support the conditions and structures that enable a focused, collaborative, integrated approach to improvement within their own agencies and across sectors. They must also call attention to the existing system’s assumptions, power structures and institutionalized inequities that are barriers to building shared vision, purpose and collaboration. Read more…

Cultivate Trusting Relationships

Coherence, or the lack of coherence, manifests through our relationships with one another. Leaders understand the importance and power of building trust with individuals, teams and communities. They know that too often, stakeholder engagement efforts are still missing the voices of those who are closest to the policies or initiatives they enact in decision-making, so they work in ways that prioritizes relationship-building. They engage with and learn from educators in school buildings and school systems, community members and other agency team members, including those who disagree, are skeptical or opposed. They seek to understand others’ needs, motivations and interests by leading with empathy, confronting issues of power, and convening and collaborating across lines of difference. Read more…

Change Behaviors at Scale

Coherent systems are adaptive systems. As fundamentally human enterprises, education organizations’ power to adapt relies on the ability of people to learn and change. System leaders must understand the principles of social networking and change management to understand how to promote organizational learning and change that will shift mindsets and behaviors and make improvements stick. Read more…

Equitable Ways of Thinking & Working

Incoherent education systems are a product of design, and can be redesigned. This requires leaders to understand their role as systems designers as well as the enablers or disablers a system that has often failed to serve the students who are most marginalized. Leaders at all levels of the organization must recognize how ways of thinking and working can create systems of advantage and oppression, and that it’s not possible to collaborate effectively, authentically engage or make change stick unless identity, bias, and power dynamics are understood and addressed. We must align our beliefs and values around equity with our mindsets and our actions. Read more…