January 12, 2017

Terri S. Wilson, (303) 492-5785, terri.wilson@colorado.edu
Daniel Quinn, (517) 203-2940, dquinn@greatlakescenter.org

ESSA Report Raises Important Issues, Leaves More Difficult Questions Unexplored

EAST LANSING, Mich. (Jan. 12, 2017) — Last fall, the Center for American Progress (CAP) and Knowledge Alliance released a report on the evidence-based provisions of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The report called for a shift away from federal mandates toward greater state and local autonomy. Unfortunately, the advice provided to practitioners lacked evidence and specifics.

According to a review released today, the report is methodologically weak, despite raising several important issues on evidence-based school improvement practices. The report sought to provide guidance for school districts seeking to make decisions based on evidence to improve their lowest performing schools.

Terri S. Wilson, University of Colorado Boulder, reviewed Better Evidence, Better Choices, Better Schools: State Supports for Evidence-Based School Improvement for the Think Twice think tank review project. Think Twice, a project of the National Education Policy Center, is funded in part by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

Wilson, in her review, finds that the report raises a number of important issues regarding the implementation of ESSA, yet the guidance offered to practitioners is "vague and unsubstantiated."

The report offered eight key recommendations for implementing evidence-based strategies. Despite this, Wilson finds: "While helpful general pieces of advice, these recommendations remain relatively vague and are grounded in neither the existing research literature nor the empirical study featured in the report."

Wilson accepts that evidenced-based policy is an idea that is easy to agree with, but important questions must be tackled as states begin implementing ESSA. Most notably, she raises two important questions: (1) what counts as evidence; and (2) who is able (and authorized) to determine what kinds of evidence are most relevant to local contexts?

In her conclusion, Wilson suggests that practitioners seek new models and research that may better address the challenges identified in this report.

Find the full review on the web:

You can find the original report on the web at:

Think Twice, a project of the National Education Policy Center, provides the public, policymakers and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected publications. The project is made possible by funding from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

The review can also be found on the NEPC website:


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The mission of the Great Lakes Center for Education Research & Practice is to support and disseminate high quality research and reviews of research for the purpose of informing education policy and to develop research-based resources for use by those who advocate for education reform.

Visit the Great Lakes Center website at http://www.greatlakescenter.org/