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Evidence-Based Planning:

What You Need to Know

"Sufficient support will be provided to ensure evidence-based strategies aimed at improving student academic performance will be implemented with a high-level of fidelity."

                  -Maryland's Consolidated ESSA Plan, p. 47

An adult points to the writing of a student.

Strategies, Activities, Practices, and Programs

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) requires that activities, strategies, practices, programs, or interventions, collectively referred to as "interventions", be evidence-based since they are proven to positively impact student achievement. In short, "interventions" have evidence to show they are effective at producing a desired outcome.


A collection of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs), below, addresses what districts and schools need to know, implement and monitor around evidence-based decision making and planning under Maryland's Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) Consolidated Plan. 


Four Levels of Evidence-Based Interventions   

Level 4
Under Evaluation: 

  • Demonstrates rationale based on high-quality research or positive evaluation that the intervention is likely to improve student outcomes.

  • Includes ongoing efforts to examine the effects of the intervention.

A teacher and a group of six middle-school aged students in a circle with books in a library.
A teacher and four elementary-age students sit on large bouncy balls in a circle.

Readiness Tip: Ensure a good fit with a selected program, activity, strategy, or intervention, by first considering readiness factors such as the context of the local school system or school where the intervention will be adopted. For more information, please click on the link to an Implementation readiness checklist.

tiers chart

When can a Tier 4 intervention be used? 

The MSDE will collaborate with the LEAs on the development, implementation, and monitoring of intervention strategies. The level of technical assistance provided by the MSDE to the CSI and the TSI schools will differ. However, sufficient support will be provided to ensure evidence-based strategies aimed at improving student academic performance will be implemented with a high-level of fidelity.


girls are drawing in art class

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What does an evidence-based intervention mean?

What tools can we use to compare which is the best solution to our problem of practice? 

When an urgent need, based on the needs assessment or other data is determined, districts and schools work to find an evidence-based solution. Sometimes searches for such a solution do not result in an intervention, program, practice, or strategy that aligns directly to the school's context and/or environment. In such a  case, districts and schools may have to develop their own intervention.

Under ESSA, a fourth tier of evidence seems to provide the opportunity for ongoing research aligned to the results of a particular need from a comprehensive needs assessment. In this case, schools and school systems must devise a Theory of Action plan with rationale as why a specific intervention will meet the needs of students or has met the needs of students.

As part of the action plan, systems or schools must demonstrate how they will collect evidence and data, through ongoing efforts, in order to show current and predicted effects of the intervention.

Starting small and expanding over time often yields positive outcomes and allows for time to refine the intervention and implementation process.

As required under ESSA, all school improvement plans for Comprehensive Support and Improvement (CSI) and Targeted Support and Improvement (TSI) schools must include one or more evidence-based interventions, aligned with the results from the Comprehensive Needs Assessment. [i]


The term intervention should not be confused with the types of interventions associated with “response to intervention” or RTi. Instead, an evidence-based intervention, when used with respect to state, district, or schools means an activity, strategy, program or practice, that falls under one category known as an intervention. [ii]


For a strategy, practice, program, activity, or intervention to be considered evidence-based, there must be at least one study which showed a statistically significant positive effect on students or other relevant outcomes.


Of what benefit are evidence-based interventions?  

Whether students are receiving federally-funded programs and interventions to support their learning or not, the top priority must be ensuring success for every single student.  Evidence-based intervention, through controlled research studies, is one that has been proven to be effective in improving student outcomes.  

Since one of the broad intents of the Every Student Succeeds Act is to encourage evidence-based decision making as a standard practice, districts and schools must consider the appropriate solutions that fit the needs uncovered in a needs assessment. Unlike NCLB, ESSA calls for the use of evidence-based activities, strategies, and interventions that produce positive results. With a lack of time and financial resources, selecting activities proven to be effective is the most responsible consideration because there is proof it will work, when implemented effectively. 

[i] School Leadership Interventions Under Every Student Succeeds Act: Evidence Review, Rand Corporation, 2017.

Before implementing new programs, consider what research says about an activity, program, or practice? To what effect? 

[i] Leverage Points: Thirteen Opportunities for State Education Agencies to Use Their ESSA Plans to Build and Use Evidence to Improve Student Outcomes, Results for America, 2017.

[ii] Non-Regulatory Guidance: Using Evidence to Strengthen Education Investments, U.S. Department of Education, 2016.

To activate video, click on the "play" button at the center of the image. It is linked to the Florida Research Center for Reading Research video, "LEA Guide for Identifying Evidence-Based Interventions". Time: 5.41

How can we ensure interventions meet ESSA


Depending on what type of intervention is being sought to fit the needs of the school, teachers, students, and/or climate will determine where to search for an evidence-based solution. Before a team engages in the process of locating an evidence-based solution that aligns well to the needs assessment, it is recommended to become familiar with the resources below.


Each resource was developed or selected as a best practice to assist schools and school systems throughout the process.

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How can we ensure successful implementation of an intervention
(activity, practice, program, strategy)?

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What does support look like for schools receiving federal funds, such as Title I?

LEA Guide for Identifying Evidence-Based Interventions for School Improvement

LEA Guide for Identifying Evidence-Based Interventions for School Improvement

Play Video
EB guide front cover.PNG

Resource #1- Evidence-Based Intervention Guide for Districts and Schools: What You Need to Know, developed by the Office of Leadership Development and School Improvement, helps to keep track of information and resources you will need as you plan and implement an evidence-based intervention. The guide also provides a list of topic-based links to locate an evidence-based intervention, practice, or strategy.

Word Version
PD Version 

Resource #2- "LEA Guide for Identifying Evidence-Based Interventions" video, which briefly discusses how to get started by providing self-study tools structured so that teams can collaborate and make decisions on their own. 

screen shot of front cover of resource

What guidance is offered to find and evaluate interventions under ESSA?

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Developed by the Maryland State Department of Education, the Office of Research provides guidance, examples, and definitions to assist schools and school systems in getting started. Locating evidence to inform the adoption of activities and for evaluating the evidence to determine if an intervention should be selected are all considered in the resource, Finding and Evaluating Evidence for Evidence-Based Decision Making Under ESSA and Beyond.

Fortunately, there are a number of tools and assessments available to determine readiness on an intervention to be successfully implemented. What is more important is understanding why readiness is a necessary first step before actual implementation.

According to the State Implementation & Scaling Up of Evidence-based Practices (SISEP) Center, a leadership team should determine the level or the extent to which stakeholders are ready to implement a change and/or evidence-based practice. In this context, readiness is defined as a “development point at which a person, organization, or system has the capacity and willingness to engage in a particular activity.” Readiness is critical for both initiating and scaling up the use of evidence-based interventions in education.


To provide assistance to districts and schools, the Office of Leadership Development and School Improvement at MSDE, has developed a chart modeled from the key dimensions referenced in the SISEP document. The chart lays out the four key stages (see Figure 1) expected in implementing a major change or intervention along with guiding questions that can be used throughout the process. 










Fig. 1 The Stages of Implementation from the
UNC Child Development Institute




[i] Scaling-up Brief: Readiness for Change, State Implementation & Scaling-Up of Evidence-based Practices Center, September 2013.


Two tools can assist teams with assessing and selecting which intervention or program aligns best to the needs identified at a school or central office. Teams can review and decide which user-friendly tool to utilize.

WestEd tool: The Intervention Evidence Review guides the review and comparison of interventions that target an identified need. Other tools are also available to support schools and school systems throughout the process of finding, adopting, and implementing interventions. Tools are available for download into Word documents. 


Florida Center for Reading Research: Navigate to the "An LEA Guide for Identifying Evidence-based Interventions for School Improvement". It can be downloaded into an editable PDF self-paced guide to assist school systems or schools in all stages of selecting an evidence-based intervention. 


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How can we determine if an intervention, program, practice, or strategy from a clearinghouse is aligned to ESSA's tiers?  

When locating an intervention that is not clearly identified as a specific tier under ESSA, such as strong, moderate, promising, or under evaluation, but instead may use another term such as "meets standards without reservations" or "strong, moderate, or promising", how do educators ensure the terms align to ESSA definition of an evidence-based intervention as indicated in the chart above

The Office of Leadership Development and School Improvement has developed an ESSA Alignment with Evidence chart in response to this question. 

MSDE ESSA tier chart.png
alignment to ESSA

The evidence-based chart and the ESSA Alignment with Evidence-Based Clearinghouse chart can be downloaded by clicking on the image. 

​During No Child Left Behind (NCLB), education became more data-driven with terms like “scientifically based research” or “research-based”. The differences may seem negligible; however, for an intervention to be evidence-based, under ESSA, means it is supported by research that proved the intervention works as intended.  School systems and schools who receive federal dollars under Title I must select from interventions that demonstrate either strong (Level I), moderate (Level II), or promising evidence (Level III) as shown in the graphic to the right. Schools who seek Title II funds can implement interventions from any Level (I -IV). 

The search can be challenging especially when many of the terms may be new or unclear to educators. The Maryland State Department of Education along with a number of organizations can provide support in determining whether an intervention is backed by rigorous evidence. 


[i]An LEA or School Guide for Identifying Evidence-Based Interventions for School Improvement, Florida Center for Reading Research, Florida State University, 2016.


What defines whether an intervention is evidence-based? 

At-a-Glance Evidence Levels under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)

updated levels of EBI.png

Click on the image of the four levels or tiers of evidence under ESSA to open to a larger size or to download

Click on the image to download the information for finding and evaluating evidence for evidence-based decision making. 

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