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Study of Schools Identified for Comprehensive Supports Under ESSA

Contract Information

Current Status:



October 2019 – November 2024



Contract Number:



American Institutes for Research


Decades of educational reforms have demonstrated that turning around the lowest-performing schools in the U.S. remains a complex challenge. To address perceived shortcomings in prior federal law, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) of 2015 provided new rules and regulations, as well as some new flexibilities, for how states identify their lowest performing schools and then assist and hold them accountable. This study provides the first nationwide examination of which schools have been identified as those needing comprehensive support and improvement (CSI) under ESSA, how states and districts are targeting supports to these schools, and the improvement related practices these schools are using.

  • Did the first CSI schools identified under ESSA reflect the new law's objectives? How does the number and types of schools nationally and in each state compare to the schools identified for intensive supports just prior to ESSA, and does it vary by whether a state had a flexibility waiver before ESSA?
  • Are states and districts targeting supports to CSI schools, with sufficient intensity, as intended by ESSA?
  • To what extent are the supports provided by states and districts to CSI schools differentiated and individualized to address each school's specific needs?
  • In line with ESSA's rules and regulations, are states and districts providing support for CSI schools to select evidence-based interventions and are these being implemented at the school level?

This descriptive study is examining the characteristics of CSI schools identified under ESSA during school year 2018–19, comparing them to schools identified for intensive supports during 2017–18 before ESSA was phased in. For 2017-18, a distinction will be made between schools operating in states with and without No Child Left Behind flexibility waivers. In addition, it will use school survey data collected in Spring 2022, through a separate IES study of the implementation of the Title I and Title II programs, to provide a nationwide description of supports for CSI schools and the extent to which these vary when compared to supports for non-identified schools..

A first report, describing the characteristics of CSI schools, is expected in 2024 and will be announced on

Key findings will be available after the study report is published.