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Every Student Succeeds Act

ESSA: How Strong Are State Plans on School Improvement?

By Alyson Klein — July 18, 2017 2 min read
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After years of federal direction on school improvement, states and districts will get a much freer hand with turning around low-performers under the Every Student Succeeds Act. So far, 16 states and the District of Columbia have turned in plans to implement the law.

So are their ideas promising? Results for America’s Evidence in Education Lab, a non-profit organization that studies school improvement, analyzed the plans so we don’t have to. Here’s a quick primer on the findings. Much more detail in the full report, “ESSA Leverage Points: 64 Strategies from States for Using Evidence to Improve Student Outcomes.”

Nearly every state included at least one school improvement proposal that Results for America deems promising. And eight states— New Mexico, Connecticut, Tennessee, Delaware, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Colorado, and Oregon—included numerous strong practices.

For example, five states—Tennessee, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Mexico, and Delaware—have committed to distributing their school improvement dollars competitively and taking into account whether plans are backed by strong evidence.

Five states—Tennessee, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Colorado, and New Mexico—have strong plans on the runway for monitoring and examining local implementation of plans once they are approved.

And four states—Delaware, Connecticut, New Mexico, and Nevada—have come up with ways to make sure districts are picking an intervention that’s tailored to the reason a particular school isn’t making progress

There also are some things that Results for America says didn’t show up nearly often enough in state plans. For instance, just five states are planning to evaluate different interventions so that they’ll have more information about what works. And only nine make a point of mentioning evidence as a factor in applications for school improvement dollars.

The report also highlights some specific strong practices outlined in state plans. For instance, every school in Vermont—whether low-performing or not—will have to work toward continuous improvement. And the report gives a shout-out to Massachusetts for having an already-existing office that helps states sort through and make practical use of research.

Want more on this? Bellwether Education Partners and the Collaborative for Student Success also took a look at state plans for school improvement, which you can check out here. And Andrew and I reviewed every state ESSA proposal to see how they hoped to tackle the issue. You can read all about that here.