ESSA Action Guide │ Selecting Evidence-Based Practices for Low-Performing Schools

Alicia Garcia

Evidence-based practices are commonly understood as those practices informed by research that lead to improved educational outcomes. This concept is incorporated throughout the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which requires education leaders to use such practices in improvement plans for low-performing schools. Practices should be selected for rigor of evidence as well as fit for school budget and culture.

Actions for Education Leaders to Select Evidence-Based Practices

This action guide offers education leaders three action steps to ensure the evidence-based practices they select meet ESSA requirements and fit their specific needs.

Action 1: Review the Data and Practices to Prioritize Improvement Areas

See a complete list of the resources contained throughout this guide >>

To choose evidence-based practices that account for their specific—and local—circumstances, leaders first should conduct a variety of needs-assessment activities, such as:

  • Completing a data review and interpretation to identify which student outcomes they want to improve
  • Conducting a root-cause analysis to identify strategies for improvement, such as adjustments to teacher instruction or supports for improving attendance
  • Creating an inventory of current practices and interventions to understand which ones address their prioritized outcomes and which ones they can scale back or end

Action 2: Explore Key Resources to Flag EBPs That Meet Evidence Requirements

Once leaders understand the gap between current practices and prioritized outcomes, they can next explore key resources and identify potential strategies that meet the evidence requirements. Examining a variety of resources, including online clearinghouses like the What Works Clearinghouse, will help identify all possible improvement strategies and evidence tiers for potential evidence-based practices.

If clearinghouses do not contain studies that address an approach leaders are considering, leaders can conduct their own review of research using sources such as the Education Resources Information Center (ERIC).

Action 3: Apply Other Criteria to Identify EBPs That Meet Local Priorities

After these first two actions are completed, leaders can be confident that their chosen practice is backed by evidence showing a positive impact on their student outcomes goals. However, to ensure that the practice has a higher chance of producing positive results, leaders should consider regional or local priorities.

Some questions leaders might ask include:

  • Are there enough staff to enact a particular practice?
  • Is there enough funding to see it through to the end?
  • Does the practice fit community values?
  • Can results be measured formatively and summatively?