School Support and Improvement Under ESSA

School Support and Improvement Under ESSA

In summer 2018, Education First invited every state education agency to participate in a research project to learn how states are navigating the new flexibilities, opportunities and challenges under ESSA for supporting and turning around struggling schools. Our goal was to compile fact-based information—for SEAs and for partners invested in state success—about how states are trying to achieve better, more equitable student outcomes. In the end, 46 states (including DC) completed our survey, and 41 states (including DC) sat for an interview. The Collaborative for Student Success, as part of their Promise to Practice project, underwrote our research.

Looking at the data, we spotted important themes—detailed in this summary document. These include:

  • Many states are bringing a “continuous improvement” mindset to school turnaround efforts—which is different than how school improvement strategies worked under NCLB.
  • States are trying to better tailor interventions and supports to the unique needs of each school; they also are relying heavily on needs assessments completed with school and district leaders to develop a strong and common understanding of what support is most needed.
  • SEAs are reorganizing to better support struggling schools—by recruiting and deploying new school improvement coaches to work with every school, leveraging regional education service agencies to help and creating cross-content or cross-division teams to monitor each school’s progress.
  • State leaders are worried that capacity (their own and experts in the field) and resources (money available to help) are both in short supply; in part for these reasons, most are prioritizing support to CSI schools over TSI schools.


To learn about the approach for any individual state as of Fall 2018, click on the state in map below. To view a compilation of all 41 state snapshots that Education First created, see this document.

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