Evidence-Based Interventions

Intent and Purpose

In an effort to ensure the effectiveness of school interventions, The Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 (ESSA) calls for the adoption of programs whose successfulness has been tested and demonstrated. Such programs and interventions are referred to as “Evidence-Based Interventions” and are ranked according to the degree of evidence indicating their impact, ranging from “Tier 1: Strong Evidence” to “Tier 2: Moderate Evidence” and “Tier 3: Promising Evidence.” For some programs still undergoing testing, it is enough that they “demonstrate a rationale” (Tier 4) based on high-quality research. For an explanation of the criteria for ranking studies, and the requirements across federal programs, please see the “Evidence-Based Practices and Interventions: New Requirements for ESSA” power point on this page.


Law and Guidance

Original ESEA definition of “Evidence-Based Intervention”
(from section 8101(21)(A) of ESEA)

… the term “evidence-based,” when used with respect to a State, local educational agency, or school activity, means an activity, strategy, or intervention that –

i) Demonstrates a statistically significant effect on improving student outcomes or other relevant outcomes based on –
I) strong evidence from at least one well-designed and well-implemented experimental study;
II) moderate evidence from at least one well-designed and well-implemented quasi-experimental study; or
III) promising evidence from at least one well-designed and well-implemented correlational study with statistical controls for selection bias; or
I) 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
II) includes ongoing efforts to examine the effects of such activity, strategy, or intervention.

USDE Non-Regulatory Guidance:


Forms and Tools

Guides to Selecting and Applying Evidence-Based Practices

Below are five guides to help Local Education Agencies select and apply evidence-based practices in the areas of Reading, Math, English Language Proficiency, Parent and Family Engagement, and Safe and Healthy Schools/School Climate and Culture.

In real-world terms, most LEAs do not have the time or resources to experiment and evaluate potential interventions themselves. The tables below are meant to help LEAs quickly identify interventions that have already been evaluated and ranked.

For this reason the U.S. Department of Education has created the What Works Clearinghouse (https://ies.ed.gov/ncee/wwc/). Similar resources are coming online from a number of private entities as well, such as Evidence for ESSA (https://www.evidenceforessa.org) created by the Center for Research and Reform in Education at Johns Hopkins University. These websites present data on the outcomes obtained through various popular programs, broken down by subject area and school type (elementary, middle, high school, etc.)

These tables describe such interventions, along with the ranking assigned (Tier 1, Tier 2, etc.) and links to the literature and studies behind them.

Safe and Healthy Schools Guide 2/2020

Parent Family Engagement Guide 2/2020

English Language Proficiency Guide 2/2020

Reading Guide 2/2020

Mathematics Guide 2/2020


Evidence-Based Practices and Interventions: New Requirements for ESSA - 2/2020


Guidance and Overview of Intended Impact:

USDE Non-Regulatory Guidance:

Curriculum Associates – ESSA and Evidence Claims: A Practical Guide to Understanding What “Evidence-Based” Really Means


Institute of Education Sciences: What Works ClearinghouseTM (WWC):

Center for Research and Reform in Education at Johns Hopkins University

Center on Innovations in Learning, “Effective Practices: Research Briefs and Evidence Ratings”

Further Resources:

American Institutes for Research – Crosswalk: Aligning Evidence-Based Clearinghouses with the ESSA Tiers of Evidence

Institute of Education Sciences: Education Resources Information Center:

Institute of Education Sciences: National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance (evaluation search page):

Institute of Education Sciences: Regional Education Laboratory Program – Southwest

Learning Policy Institute – Evidence-Based Interventions: A Guide for States

WestEd – Evidence-Based Improvement: A Guide for States to Strengthen Their Frameworks and Supports Aligned to the Evidence Requirements of ESSA

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Last updated on February 26, 2020