One of the big catchphrases right now is “fidelity to the model.” It has come up repeatedly in different contexts in the last few months. My take on it is that the phrase can often be replaced with “no independent thought allowed.”
To be fair, as different programs are rolled out across the state or the country, there is a need for uniformity. This uniformity prevents folks from arguing that the model is flawed when the failures were caused by changes that were not anticipated or approved. It ensures that the researchers and administrators are comparing data that is similar — “apples to apples.” The uniformity ensures that tools and programs that were developed and successful in one locale can be applied as new sites come online.
But, here is the downside to the phrase — there are times when one size does not fit all, and no one is collecting data. Instead, the phrase is used as a shield against additional, progressive work.
A protocol that was developed for CHINS kids may not apply to JD kids and their families. A document that talks about “the offending parent” in a JD case — in which the parent has not been accused of anything — has no relevance. Telling court participants that these protocols and documents cannot be changed because of “fidelity to the model” makes no sense and renders the protocol or document suspect at best and useless at worst.
Similarly, gathering multiple stakeholders for meetings over and over again to review the same material is counterproductive to the goal of forward progress. The justification is that these repetitive meetings are to ensure that everyone is on the same page about the big picture. But, one can assume that folks were attentive unless there is evidence to the contrary. When “fidelity to the model” requires this redundant meeting every few months, the stakeholders lose interest wondering whether the project will ever succeed, if there is little new information. It is the absolute antithesis of the goal of igniting the passion and creativity of the participants.
When there are leaders, experts, and trained professionals involved, there must be some room for logic, examination, and analysis.