The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) gives states, school districts, and schools new flexibility to design K-12 education systems that reflect local needs and priorities. In exchange, ESSA encourages, and in some cases requires, the use of evidence-based approaches and continuous improvement to drive improved outcomes.
Results for America’s Evidence in Education Lab team analyzed the 17 ESSA consolidated state plans submitted to the U.S. Department of Education to date in order to examine the extent to which these states propose to use the opportunities provided by ESSA to strengthen how they use evidence, evaluation, and continuous improvement. In our review, we found the following:
- Sixteen states included at least one promising practice for building and using evidence to improve student outcomes.
- Eight states included the largest number of promising practices: New Mexico, Connecticut, Tennessee, Delaware, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Colorado, and Oregon.
- Unfortunately, only four states emphasize the role of evidence-based approaches outside of school improvement (e.g., ESSA Title II and Title IV); only five states pledge to conduct evaluations to build the evidence base further; and only nine states highlight the use of evidence when reviewing and approving school improvement funding applications.
In general, we were encouraged by the commitments these first 17 states made to using evidence to drive improved student outcomes, particularly among the eight states with the largest number of promising practices. However, for the majority of states, there were notable gaps that deserve further attention. In the report that follows, we summarize trends across states for each of 13 key opportunities in ESSA and spotlight those states with the most promising approaches.