March 9, 2017Policy Report

Leverage Points: Thirteen Opportunities for State Education Agencies to Use Their ESSA State Plans to Build and Use Evidence to Improve Student Outcomes

Federal/Local/ Education/ 2017/


The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) gives state education agencies (SEAs), local education agencies (LEAs), and schools more opportunities to design their own educational systems. At the same time, ESSA also requires in some parts (and encourages in others) the use of evidence- based approaches and continuous improvement to help leverage greater student success with federal funds. Indeed, ESSA represents a shift from the compliance-based frame of the No Child Left Behind Act to one premised on state and local authority to take evidence-based actions and continuously improve education systems and student outcomes over time.

Implemented well, these evidence and continuous improvement provisions can increase the return on education investments, as more resources are invested in policies, programs, and practices that are likely to have a positive impact and as those activities are periodically reviewed and continuously improved over time. Although LEAs and schools will play critical roles in this work, SEAs have a key opportunity to set a vision and establish enabling policies in support of evidence- based, results-driven solutions via their consolidated ESSA state plans. Further, at various points in the act, ESSA requires that initial state strategies be periodically reviewed and improved throughout the implementation of state and local plans—supporting a shift from compliance- oriented to learning-oriented systems that use evidence to inform action and continuous improvement.

This document identifies thirteen leverage points in consolidated state plans where SEAs can articulate how they and their LEAs will use evidence, evaluation, and continuous improvement through ESSA implementation to improve student outcomes.