Building Capacity for Educational Improvement

ICF International provides training and technical assistance on education initiatives that drive positive and long-lasting change at the national, state, and local level.



Educational leaders across the United States recognize that transformation will only come with the enhanced capacity of educators to implement innovative, research-based programs that address their districts' and schools' particular circumstances. ICF International builds this capacity to improve outcomes at all levels by:

  • Assessing state and local needs
  • Helping leaders articulate critical questions and appropriate, cost-effective solutions
  • Working with leaders to use and disseminate data to inform decisions
  • Assisting leaders to foster and implement innovation
  • Providing customized technical assistance and training grounded in real-world experience and evidence-based practice

ICF offers capacity workshops and training and technical assistance packages, which help states and districts implement school improvement and reform initiatives fully and successfully. Funding sources available for capacity training and technical assistance include School Improvement Grants, Title I, local and state improvement allocations, and reform grant awards. In addition, the ICF Early Education Institute™ offers customized trainings, workshops, tools, and resources that focus on vital program areas related to early education.


"In learning about building capacity, we found that the Multiple Dimension Approach (MDA) provides a process that is purposeful and well-defined. It facilitates the change effort with the development of a clear plan for progressive learning that is time bound and meets people where they are."

Catherliene Williamson
, Alabama State Department of Education State Support Team


Featured Resources

Featured Workshops

  • Multiple Dimension Approach (MDA) to Capacity Building—This training workshop provides an introduction to capacity building and the use of a multiple dimension approach to designing and implementing capacity building change. Participants will be able to identify four dimensions of capacity, determine capacity needs, and design capacity building initiatives using authentic improvement scenarios.

  • Embedded Tasks—This training workshop explains the use of embedded tasks in capacity building and presents four levels of internal/external tasks. Participants will be able to design a change initiative using various types of embedded tasks to achieve targeted capacity building results.

  • Capacity Building Maps—This training workshop provides templates and information on using maps to guide capacity building change. Participants will apply authentic scenarios in designing and implementing three types of Capacity Building Maps.

Featured Packages

  • Multiple Dimension Approach (MDA) to Capacity Building—This training and technical assistance package includes four days of training in the MDA to Capacity Building, implementing Customized Capacity Services and personalized Embedded Tasks, as well as three days of on-site technical assistance in designing and implementing capacity building services.

  • Designing Capacity Building Initiatives—This training and technical assistance package includes five days of training in Organization Design for Capacity Growth, Multipoint Support Services, Capacity Building Maps, Customized Capacity Services, and Mid- and Large-Scale Change, as well as three days of on-site technical assistance in using the training topics to design and implement capacity building initiatives.

For more information, contact Sharon Harsh at

  • Assessing needs—ICF partners with policymakers to understand their needs—including context and history—and to build capacity and design responsive planning and implementation strategies, analysis, research, interventions, and products. Every ICF project is individually tailored to maximize client return on investment. Needs assessments across a number of clients may also identify common problems amenable to cost-effective solutions that serve many. 
  • Engaging stakeholders in capacity building—ICF has many years of experience partnering with education stakeholders to enhance their capacity to implement effective policy and programmatic change. By developing communities of practice and other information-sharing channels and by highlighting effective practices, ICF facilitates the capacity building of state agencies, public-private partnership efforts, schools, districts, and early education programs in ways designed to bolster commitment among all stakeholders toward the common goal of improving learning across all age groups and diverse populations.
  • Providing insights through rigorous research, analysis, and evaluation—ICF has extensive experience implementing rigorous research, analysis, and evaluation, from original empirical research to secondary analyses of data. Our capacity in all facets of information management enables us to design data systems, conduct analyses of data, advise on the best course of action, and evaluate the impact of educational improvements. With a unique combination of technical expertise and real-world experience, ICF staff offer state and local leaders insights that reflect not only the best information available, but also how to use it to tackle complex policy, program and process challenges. 
  • Helping policymakers use data for decisionmaking—ICF builds capacity within early education programs, schools, districts, and state governments through partnerships focused on the examination and interpretation of data. We have experience in all facets of helping state and local organizations collect, communicate and use data to examine the impact of their educational strategies and programs and inform policy and practice decisions. 
  • Strategic planning to achieve goals—ICF helps state agencies and communities look long term at their goals and set realistic plans for achieving them. By facilitating and engaging stakeholder groups, ICF staff are able to infuse content knowledge into the planning process and set timelines and milestones that are realistic. To support the strategic planning process, ICF staff are experts at crosswalking standards, initiatives and funding to give education leaders a better picture of their challenges and opportunities. ICF also helps implement strategic plans successfully, by writing reports, gathering data, conducting research or focus groups, and analyzing what actions need to be taken to stay on course.

Contact Info

info *at* icfi *dot* com

+1.703.934.3603 or +1.800.532.4783

9300 Lee Highway, Fairfax, VA 22031-1207 USA

Find an ICF Office near you »

  • Project

    Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Mid-Atlantic

    The Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Mid-Atlantic supports the research-related needs of educational stakeholders throughout the District of Columbia, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania with research, technical assistance, training, and dissemination. ICF provides practitioners and policy-makers with evidence-based improvement strategies, sponsors educational research forums, and conducts stakeholder-driven short-term research projects.

  • Project

    Quality Rating and Improvement System Development and Implementation

    ICF works closely with the District of Columbia's Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) to redesign a system of quality improvement for child care providers, which integrates an early childhood workforce professional development system, District-wide licensing regulations, and subsidy reimbursement.

  • Project

    National Child Care Information Center (NCCIC)

    ICF has operated the National Child Care Information and Technical Assistance Center (NCCIC) since 1994, providing broad information on early and school age care and education through its website, toll-free line, and email service on behalf of the Office of Child Care.

  • Project

    Evaluation of the High School Success Pilot Programs (HSSPP)

    ICF conducted a formative and summative evaluation of three discretionary grant programs focused on dropout prevention to assess their implementation, effectiveness, and cost-effectiveness. This work highlights ICF’s expertise in designing quasi-experimental studies using a mixed-methods approach to measure the impact of program activities on student and teacher outcomes.

  • Project

    What Works Clearinghouse

    ICF is a key partner on the What Works Clearinghouse (WWC), which was established by the U.S. Department of Education's Institute of Education Sciences in 2002 to provide educators, policymakers, researchers, and the public with a central and trusted source of scientific evidence of what works in education.

  • Project

    Reform Support Network

    ICF was selected by the U.S. Department of Education to manage the Reform Support Network, which was designed to help states implement sweeping reforms in education policy and practice.

  • Project

    Evaluation of the Texas Adolescent Literacy Academies (TALA)

    ICF conducted a formative and summative evaluation of the Texas Adolescent Literacy Academies (TALA), a statewide teacher professional development (PD) program, to assess its quality, implementation, effectiveness, and cost-effectiveness. This work highlights ICF’s expertise in evaluating the implementation and impact of adult learning opportunities that support adolescent learning and development.

These reports were prepared for the Office of Child Care, Administration for Children & Families, Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), as part of ICF’s support of the National Child Care Information Center (NCCIC) project. They are available on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website:

These reports were prepared for the National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Institute of Education Sciences as part of ICF’s support of the Regional Educational Laboratory Mid-Atlantic project. They are available on the U.S. Department of Education website:


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