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ESSA Evidence-Based Interventions

What is an ESSA Evidence-Based Intervention?

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) emphasizes the use of evidence-based activities, strategies, and interventions (collectively referred to as "interventions"). The term 'evidence-based,' (from section 8101(21)(A) of the ESEA) when used with respect to a State, local educational agency, or school activity, means an intervention that demonstrates a statistically significant effect on improving student outcomes or other relevant outcomes. The criteria for identifying "evidence-based" interventions based on each of ESSA's four levels are as follows:

  • Strong evidence from at least one well-designed and well-implemented experimental study;
  • Moderate evidence from at least one well-designed and well-implemented quasi-experimental study; or
  • Promising evidence from at least one well-designed and well-implemented correlational study with statistical controls for selection bias; or
  • Demonstrates a rationale based on high-quality research findings or positive evaluation that such activity, strategy, or intervention is likely to improve student outcomes or other relevant outcomes; and includes ongoing efforts to examine the effects of such activity, strategy, or intervention.

The U.S. Department of Education's Non-Regulatory Guidance: Using Evidence to Strengthen Education Investments considers experimental and quasi-experimental studies to be "well-designed and well-implemented" if they meet What Works Clearinghouse Evidence Standards without reservation or are of the equivalent quality for making causal inferences. The table below illustrates the criteria and methods recommended by the Non-Regulatory Guidance: Using Evidence to Strengthen Education Investments for each of the four levels of evidence.

CriteriaStrong & ModeratePromisingDemonstrates a Rationale
Show a statistically significant and positive (i.e., favorable) effect of the intervention on a student outcome or other relevant outcomeCheck Mark  
Not be overridden by statistically significant and negative (i.e., unfavorable) evidence on the same intervention in other studies that meet WWC Evidence Standards with or without reservations or are the equivalent quality for making causal inferencesCheck MarkCheck Mark 
Have a large sample and a multi-site sampleCheck Mark  
Have a sample that overlaps with the populations (i.e., the types of students served) AND settings (e.g., rural, urban) proposed to receive the interventionCheck Mark  
Use sampling and/or analytic methods to reduce or account for differences between the intervention group and a comparison group Check Mark 
A well-specified logic model that is informed by research or an evaluation and that suggests how the intervention is likely to improve relevant outcomes  Check Mark
An effort to study the effects of the intervention, ideally producing promising evidence or higher, that will happen as part of the intervention to inform stakeholders about the success of that intervention  Check Mark

Required and Allowable Uses of Evidence Provisions in ESSA for LEAs

The tables below outline the required (LEAs must do and must be evidence-based) and allowable (LEAs may do but if done must be evidence-based) uses of the ESSA evidence-based provisions that the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) has identified. Unless otherwise specified, "evidence-based" means "meets any of the four evidence levels described above."

LEA Required Uses: Must Do and Must Be Evidence Based
Title I: School comprehensive support and improvement (CSI) plans must include one or more evidence-based interventions (EBI). Schools that receive funds from the Title I 7% set aside (Section 1003 services funds) must use EBIs that meet the top three levels of evidence as defined by ESSA.
Title I: LEA Targeted support and improvement (TSI) plans for schools with low performing subgroups must include one or more evidence-based interventions. Schools that receive funds from the Title I 7% set aside (Section 1003 services funds) must use EBIs that meet the top three levels of evidence as defined by ESSA.
Title I: LEAs must conduct, with the meaningful involvement of parents and family members, an annual evaluation of their parent and family engagement strategies and policies and then use the findings of such evaluation to design evidence-based strategies for more effective parental involvement, and to revise, if necessary, the parent and family engagement policies described.

LEA Allowable Uses: May Do, But If Done, Must Be Evidence-Based
Title IIA: LEAs may use Title II-A funding to reduce class size to a level that is evidence-based, to the extent the State (in consultation with local educational agencies in the State) determines that such evidence is reasonably available, to improve student achievement. [MA has summarized the existing evidence on this issue in the following brief: Class size and Resource Allocation Policy Brief.]
Title IIA: LEAs may use Title IIA funding to support other activities identified by the State that are, to the extent the State determines that such evidence is reasonably available, evidence-based and that meet the purpose of this title (i.e., anything else aligned with Title II's purposes … is limited to only evidence-based activities).
Title IIA: LEAs may use Title II-A funding to provide high-quality, personalized professional development that is evidence-based, to the extent the State (in consultation with local educational agencies in the State) determines that such evidence is reasonably available, for teachers, instructional leadership teams, principals, or other school leaders, that is focused on improving teaching and student learning and achievement, including supporting efforts to train teachers, principals, or other school leaders.
Title IVA: Each local educational agency, or consortium of such agencies, that receives an allocation under section 4105(a) may include, among other programs and activities, drug and violence prevention activities and programs that are evidence-based (to the extent the State, in consultation with local educational agencies in the State, determines that such evidence is reasonably available). The term "drug and violence prevention" means — (A) with respect to drugs, prevention, early intervention, rehabilitation referral, recovery support services, or education related to the illegal use of drugs, such as raising awareness about the consequences of drug use that are evidence-based (to the extent a State, in consultation with local educational agencies in the State, determines that such evidence is reasonably available); (B) with respect to violence, the promotion of school safety, such that students and school personnel are free from violent and disruptive acts, including sexual harassment and abuse, and victimization associated with prejudice and intolerance, on school premises, going to and from school, and at school-sponsored activities, through the creation and maintenance of a school environment that is free of weapons and fosters individual responsibility and respect for the rights of others.
Title IVA: LEAs may use Title IVA funds to provide comprehensive school-based mental health services and supports and staff development for school and community personnel working in the school that are based on trauma-informed practices that are evidence-based (to the extent the State, in consultation with local educational agencies in the State, determines that such evidence is reasonably available).
Title IVA: LEAs may use Title IVA funds to design and implement a locally tailored plan to reduce exclusionary discipline practices in elementary and secondary schools that (i) is consistent with best practices; (ii) includes strategies that are evidence-based (to the extent the State, in consultation with local education agencies in the State, determines that such evidence is reasonably available).

Evidence-based Intervention Resources: "The How Do We Know?" Initiative

The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has launched the "How Do We Know?" initiative to provide resources to help Massachusetts districts locate existing research and to support their ability to measure implementation and impact as part of their improvement strategy. Please see these web pages for research summaries, literature reviews, policy briefs and clearinghouses where you can location evidence-based interventions, as well as information on how to evaluate and select evidence-based interventions, and how to assess how strong the evidence is for your interventions.

Last Updated: November 26, 2018

 
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