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Broadly defined, coherence in kindergarten through grade 12 instructional systems is the circumstance in which all instruction-related messaging and supports — for example, via curriculum materials and professional learning — provide teachers and other instructional staff with clear and mutually reinforcing messages about what to teach and how to teach it. District and school leaders have the primary responsibility for developing coherence by providing those materials, messaging, and supports.

RAND researchers developed this toolkit, along with a workbook and slide deck, to help district leaders, school leaders, teachers, and other instructional staff investigate and reflect on the extent to which coherence is present in their instructional systems, with the goal of improving that coherence.

The toolkit is organized in an easy-to-navigate format that walks educational teams through four steps toward instructional system coherence: Step 1 empowers teams to determine the focus for their coherence investigation, set up a team, and determine a timeline. Next, Step 2 asks teams to create a focus for their instructional emphases — referred to as a north star — by thinking through key components of their own system. Step 3 offers a reflection process to help teams think through what coherence looks like in their system and look for areas for improvement. Finally, Step 4 aids teams in creating an improvement plan and working toward sustaining coherence. The workbook outlines worksheets, slides, and suggested meeting agendas for each step. The Improving Instructional System Coherence Toolkit was created to help leaders and educators work collaboratively toward improved instructional system coherence.

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This study was sponsored by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and conducted by RAND Education and Labor.

This report is part of the RAND tool series. RAND tools may include models, databases, calculators, computer code, GIS mapping tools, practitioner guidelines, web applications, and various toolkits. All RAND tools undergo rigorous peer review to ensure both high data standards and appropriate methodology in keeping with RAND's commitment to quality and objectivity.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. All users of the publication are permitted to copy and redistribute the material in any medium or format and transform and build upon the material, including for any purpose (excluding commercial) without further permission or fees being required.

RAND is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.