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Evidence-Based Interventions (EBI)
Evidence in education is continually evolving and expanding and should be a part of the planning process for CS, TS, and ATS plans. Driven by growing K-12 research and requirements in federal education law, specifically the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), use of evidence-based practices among teachers, school leaders, and district personnel has become more common over recent decades. Evidence-based practices, and specifically evidence-based interventions (EBIs) as defined by ESSA, are crucial to improving student outcomes and closing gaps in student achievement. ESSA defines an evidence-based intervention as an activity, strategy, or intervention that demonstrates a statistically significant effect on improving student outcomes or other relevant outcomes.
EBI Requirements Under ESSA
ESSA requires that at least one Level 1-3 EBI be incorporated into improvement plans where state set-aside funds for school improvement are used (e.g., funds or supports accessed via EASI application).
ESSA also requires schools identified for Comprehensive Support, Targeted, or Additional Targeted Support and Improvement to implement at least one EBI, Levels 1-4 in their improvement plans.
It is a matter of equity to seek out and leverage strategies that have been shown to reliably improve students’ outcomes-- particularly for historically underserved students – where the EBI was designed for and its impact has been studied with the student populations to be served with the EBI.
ESSA Levels of Evidence
ESSA outlines four levels of evidence: (1) strong, (2) moderate, (3) promising, and (4) demonstrates a rationale based on high-quality research findings (ESSA, Section 8101(21)(A)).
ESSA requires the use of at least one Level 1-3 EBI where Title I, Section 1003 school improvement funds are used (ESSA Section 8101(21)(A)). This requirement applies to both CDE-offered services and district initiatives supported by 1003 funds. Also, ESSA requires that schools identified as either Comprehensive Support (CS) or Targeted Support (TS) include at least one Level 1-4 EBI in their improvement plans (ESSA Section 1111(d)(1)(B)(ii) and Section 1111 (d)(2)(B)(ii)). More information on ESSA identification and planning requirements is provided here.
Levels 1-3 evidence must demonstrate a statistically significant and positive (favorable) effect of the intervention on a student outcome or other relevant outcome, and should not be contested by evidence from equally rigorous studies. Figure A provides more information on ESSA levels of evidence:
Figure A: ESSA Levels of Evidence
Selecting EBIs – Key Considerations
When exploring available EBIs, three considerations –and related questions—are especially important; they address strength of evidence, fit of the intervention, and capacity to implement. These considerations should guide the effort to find solutions to local challenges.
Several resources have been developed by the Colorado Department of Education to help support educators at the classroom, school, and district levels select the right EBIs for their context.
The below CDE resources are topic- or grant-specific, but provide helpful information for selecting EBIs.
Exploring EBIs: Introduction to Research Clearinghouses - This web page outlines considerations for assessing evidence strength and provides a list of available research clearinghouses to explore evidence-based solutions in an easy, accessible way
Selecting EBIs: Using Contextual Fit to Choose the Right EBI for Your Context - While strength of evidence is necessary, it is not sufficient for identifying solutions that align with local contexts. This web page summarizes key considerations regarding fit and capacity and offers links to tools that can help guide thoughtful selection.
Major Improvement Strategy Evidence Guides - The CDE Improvement Planning Team has assembled several Major Improvement Strategy (MIS) Evidence Guides. These resources outline what evidence says are the key components of MISs.
CDE Advisory List of Providers -This resource provides a list of providers who have submitted information to CDE about their service, product, or intervention, and have demonstrated some level of evidence for positive impact.
Read ACT Advisory List - The READ Act requires the Department to identify quality reading instructional programs and professional development programs for use by local education agencies. This page includes information about providers and programs that have been identified through a review process.
 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.
Evidence-Based Interventions (EBI) Training:
Recorded in December 2019, Federal Programs Unit staff define “EBI”, discuss “levels of evidence” under ESSA, and step through three key contextual fit considerations when selecting EBIs.
Please visit the ESSA Planning Requirements Page for additional information related to EBIs.
Nazanin Mohajeri-Nelson, Ph.D.
Send an email to Nazanin
ESEA Research Analyst
Send an email to Mary