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ESSA Planning Requirements

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) requires states to identify schools for Comprehensive (CS), Targeted (TS), or Additional Targeted (A-TS) Support and Improvement. Additionally, ESSA requires that identified schools develop and implement an improvement plan that addresses the reasons for the school’s identification and will result in improvement of student outcomes. Plan development, approval, and monitoring vary by identification categories.

 Webinar: ESSA Planning Requirements

Additional dates for training opportunities will be posted early 2018.


Planning Requirements for Comprehensive Support and Improvement Schools

CS plans must:

  • Be developed by the LEA in partnership with stakeholders, including the principal, other school leaders, teacher and parents of the school.
  • Be informed by student performance on accountability indicators. In Colorado, this currently refers to performance indicators on the School Performance Frameworks (i.e., English language arts and math achievement and growth, science achievement, and postsecondary workforce readiness).
  • Include evidence-based interventions.
  • Be based on a school-level needs assessment.
  • Address resource inequities.
  • Be approved by the school, LEA, and CDE.

CS Plan Submission and Approval Process and Monitoring:

  • CS plans should be documented within the school’s Unified Improvement Plan (UIP) and submitted through the Online UIP System.
  • The timeline for CS plan submission follows the typical UIP submission process:  January for schools on the accountability clock (i.e., Priority Improvement, Turnaround) and April for all schools. For 2018, all CS plans will be reviewed by CDE after the April 16 submission.
  • CDE will use the ESSA CS plan embedded within the Quality Criteria to approve plans.
  • CDE will be providing feedback on any changes necessary to have approved plans by fall 2018.
  • Once plans are approved, CDE is required to monitor implementation of and periodically review CS plans.
  • Once identified, schools will remain CS for three years.
  • Schools may exit this category after the third year, if they no longer meet the identification criteria for the year in which the school was identified and they not re-identified in the fourth year.
  • CDE has been and will continue to work with stakeholders to determine what actions will be necessary for any schools that do not meet the exit criteria.

Planning Requirements for Targeted and Additional Targeted Support and Improvement Schools

TS plans must:

  • Be developed by schools in partnership with stakeholders, including the principal, other school leaders, teachers and parents.
  • Be informed by student performance for identified disaggregated student group(s) on each accountability indicator that resulted in the school’s identification as TS.
  • Include evidence-based interventions to address areas of need.
  • For Additional TS schools only, address resource inequities.

TS Plan Approval and Monitoring:

  • The LEA determines the number of years a school can be identified for targeted support and improvement before taking additional action. LEAs are responsible for determining what that additional action should be.
  • LEAs are responsible for approving and monitoring TS plans. LEAs have the option to create their own document, however, Colorado’s UIP provides a convenient mechanism for capturing the specific ESSA requirements as it aligns well with required plan components. The UIP Quality Criteria includes TS requirements if LEAs choose to document TS plans within the UIP.

Crosswalk of ESSA School Improvement Planning Requirements within the UIP Process

Crosswalk of ESSA Planning requirements and UIP connection. Please see the bullets in the sections titled:


Evidence-Based Interventions

Evidence-Based Interventions (EBI) are practices or programs that have proven to be effective in leading to a particular outcome. The kind of evidence described in ESSA has generally been produced through formal studies and research. Under ESSA, there are four levels of evidence:

Evidence Tiers and Definitions

  • Tier 1: Strong Evidence -- Supported by one or more well-designed and well-implemented randomized control experimental studies
  • Tier 2: Moderate Evidence -- Supported by one or more well-designed and well-implemented quasi-experimental studies.
  • Tier 3: Promising Evidence -- Supported by one or more well-designed and well-implemented correlational studies (with statistical controls for selection bias).
  • Tier 4: Demonstrates a Rationale -- Practices that have a well-defined logic model or theory of action, are supported by research, and have some effort underway by an SEA, LEA or outside research organization to determine their effectiveness.

ESSA requires CS and TS plans to have strong, moderate, or promising evidence (Tiers 1- 3 of the above table) to support them. To ensure the best fit, selected strategies must also demonstrate an alignment to the contextual fit framework proposed by Horner, Blitz and Ross[1]:

  • Applicability (have a demonstrated record of effectiveness with the population being served)
  • Need (student and school system priorities)
  • Precision (clear definition of the proposed intervention)
  • Efficiency (reasonable adoption period, sustainable after grant period)
  • Skills (staff have the ability or will be trained to implement the strategy)
  • Cultural relevance (the intervention and its outcomes are valued by stakeholders)
  • Resources (time, funding, materials, staff)
  • Organizational support (district and school leaders are invested and involved)
  • EBI Resources:

Resources for Comprehensive Support Schools and Targeted Support Schools

Funds for CS and TS schools are available through CDE’s ESSA Application for School Improvement Funds (EASI). These funds are designed to enhance LEAs’ and schools’ ability to meet the ESSA requirements (e.g., stakeholder engagement, improvement plan, and implementation of evidence-based interventions) in a way that directly benefits students. 


[1] Horner, R., Blitz, C., Ross, S. (June 2014) Investing in what works issue brief: The role of contextual fit when implementing evidence-based interventions. Washington, D.C.: American Institutes of Research.

Contact Information

Nazanin Mohajeri-Nelson, Ph.D.
Send an email to Nazanin

Laura Meushaw
Send an email to Laura


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