New Guide Helps Schools Improve With Evidence-Based Interventions

Posted November 29, 2016
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Blog newguidehelpsschools 2016

The Every Stu­dent Suc­ceeds Act (ESSA), a bipar­ti­san reau­tho­riza­tion of the long­stand­ing fed­er­al com­mit­ment to equal­i­ty of oppor­tu­ni­ty for all stu­dents, pro­vides states and local­i­ties with flex­i­ble resources for evi­dence-based inter­ven­tions in schools in need of sig­nif­i­cant improve­ment. Under ESSA, the State Edu­ca­tion Agen­cies (SEAs) are tasked with ensur­ing that Local Edu­ca­tion Agen­cies (LEAs) are select­ing and imple­ment­ing proven inter­ven­tions that pro­vide stu­dents attend­ing strug­gling schools with the best oppor­tu­ni­ty for achievement.

To assist SEAs in turn­ing around schools requir­ing com­pre­hen­sive or tar­get­ed sup­port, the Flori­da Cen­ter for Read­ing Research at Flori­da State Uni­ver­si­ty recent­ly released An SEA Guide for Iden­ti­fy­ing Evi­dence-Based Inter­ven­tions for School Improve­ment, fund­ed by the William T. Grant Foun­da­tion, the Overdeck Fam­i­ly Foun­da­tion and the Casey Foundation.

Casey’s sup­port for the guide reflects the Foundation’s com­mit­ment to invest­ing in pro­grams proven to work for vul­ner­a­ble chil­dren and to encour­ag­ing pub­lic fund­ing of evi­dence-based approach­es that sup­port kids’ healthy devel­op­ment. All stu­dents deserve to attend schools that work,” says Ilene Berman, a senior asso­ciate at the Casey Foun­da­tion. With this guide, we offer edu­ca­tion lead­ers infor­ma­tion and guid­ance to apply evi­dence of what works to turn around strug­gling schools.”

The guide helps SEAs con­duct self-stud­ies for:

  • eval­u­at­ing the evi­dence base for school-improve­ment inter­ven­tions in such areas as imple­ment­ing sys­temic change, estab­lish­ing strong lead­er­ship and improv­ing aca­d­e­m­ic instruction;
  • select­ing inter­ven­tions that not only have a strong evi­dence base but also address the root caus­es of under­per­for­mance in local schools; and
  • assist­ing LEAs in choos­ing the best evi­dence-based options for schools in need of com­pre­hen­sive or tar­get­ed support.

The process of self-study requires an invest­ment of time, but the results of col­lab­o­ra­tion among agency offi­cials and a vari­ety of stake­hold­ers can be invalu­able. The SEA Guide con­tains tools that equip a self-study team to engage in thought­ful inves­ti­ga­tions and dis­cus­sions that inform deci­sion mak­ing. To help team mem­bers col­lect research on evi­dence-based inter­ven­tions, the guide sug­gests a broad range of data­bas­es, web­sites and oth­er resources.

For eval­u­at­ing research on school-improve­ment inter­ven­tions, typ­i­cal­ly one of the most chal­leng­ing tasks for SEAs, the guide pro­vides both gen­er­al guid­ance for deter­min­ing the four lev­els of evi­dence rec­og­nized by ESSA and a num­ber of resources to assess the rig­or of school-improve­ment pro­grams — for exam­ple, the Blue­prints for Healthy Youth Devel­op­ment data­base and the What Works Clear­ing­house.

In addi­tion to check­lists for facil­i­ta­tors and team mem­bers, scor­ing tem­plates and plan­ning forms, the guide includes an anno­tat­ed bibliography,as well as a descrip­tion of a the­o­ry of action (to help edu­ca­tors con­sid­er the ratio­nale behind their choice of inter­ven­tions) and an exam­ple of a log­ic mod­el (to help plan and mon­i­tor eval­u­a­tions of interventions).

Com­ple­ment­ing the 90-page guide is an abbre­vi­at­ed SEA Quick-Start Guide for Iden­ti­fy­ing Evi­dence-Based Inter­ven­tions for School Improve­ment, which allows state agen­cies to begin the self-study process right away. A ver­sion of the guide for LEAs will be avail­able soon.

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