The ARCS framework


The ARCS framework for sustainable improvement is grounded in many years of research and practice. It includes four core elements: Alignment, Representation, Culture and Sustainability.

Alignment – examining connections, coherence, focus, direction and sequence; questions and activities supporting alignment involve connecting school and individual vision, expertise and actions.

Representation – questioning stakeholder engagement, participation, assumptions, and perspectives; strategies supporting representation involve actively engaging students, administrators, teachers, parents, community and business partners, etc. in articulating, questioning and planning the learning and work of the community.

Culture – acknowledging the role of norms, behaviors and values in day-to-day life, and questioning their influence on improvement initiatives; probing the presence and importance of six “Dispositions of Practice“ (personal, professional and organizational attributes whose development support and deepen the community’s ongoing learning and whose influence is evidenced in discourse, behavior and work).

Sustainability – exploring the structures and thinking that focus on continuance and meaning beyond the present moment or immediate importance; the development of a three-tier learning-leading-lasting structure that develops the expertise, leadership and longevity system-wide and contextualizes today’s successes and improvements as the legacy of the future.

Each of these elements serves as a distinctive lens through which leaders and others can examine programs, practices, processes and structures. Together they provide an “operating system” that supports healthy, ongoing and sustainable improvement. The ARCS framework provokes questions and inspires coherent action, establishing continuous improvement in the service of learning as the only acceptable “status quo.”