Since the mid-1980s there has been considerable interest in school effectiveness and school improvement among researchers, policy-makers and practitioners. The International Congress for School Effectiveness and School Improvement (ICSEI) has been prominent in these fields, creating an intellectual setting where knowledge can advance through cross-cultural and interdisciplinary collaboration. In this context, the Foundation for International Collaboration on School Improvement (FICSI) decided in the early 1990s to make a contribution to this field of study. School improvement dates back to the mid-1980s as a field of study, and special mention must be made in this context of the International School Improvement Project (ISIP) which established a distinctive body of knowledge that became internationally recognised.
The first activity that FICSI undertook was to organise special symposia at the annual meetings of ICSEI in which individuals from the two distinct fields of 'effectiveness' and 'improvement' presented material that showed where they were intellectually 'coming from'. It was clear from these sessions that the 'effectiveness' people viewed school improvement as operating on a modest empirical base that was weak and eclectic. By contrast, school 'improvement' people expressed surprise about the reluctance of effectiveness researchers to explore interventions within schools.
Nevertheless, dialogue created between representatives of the two paradigms was so productive that a group of people decided to integrate the two bodies of knowledge, beginning with a meeting in Cardiff in summer 1993 and continuing with subsequent meetings. At this stage APS (National Centre for School Improvement, Utrecht, the Netherlands) decided to support this effort, and also the subsequent decision to proceed with the publication of a book that