This fall, States will post lists of public schools needing comprehensive or targeted support and improvement. If you’re wondering what that means, here’s a primer on four ways the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) has changed School Improvement requirements:

  1. Identification Process

Starting in the 2018-19 school year, ESSA requires States to identify the lowest performing schools that need comprehensive support and improvement and targeted support and improvement.

Under No Child Left Behind, States had similar annual lists of low-performing schools called “schools in need of improvement” or “Focus and Priority schools.” But ESSA requires States to broaden the calculation of each schools’ performance beyond reading and math proficiency and graduation rates. Now their evaluation of schools must also include academic progress, progress in achieving English language proficiency, and at least one State-determined indicator of school quality or student success.

  1. New School Labels  

Some States will use different naming conventions, but the most commonly used school labels are:

  • Comprehensive Support and Improvement (CSI)
  • Targeted Support and Improvement  (TSI)
Comprehensive Support and Improvement Targeted Support and Improvement
Definition Lowest-performing 5% of Title I schools

Public high schools failing to graduate one-third or more of students

Title I schools with chronically low-performing student subgroups

Any public school with one or more student subgroup consistently underperforming
Frequency of State identifications At least once every 3 years Annually
Plan must include evidence-based interventions Yes Yes
Plan is approved and monitored by… District and State District


  1. School Improvement Requirements

Under NCLB, the school improvement process was fairly rigid; districts had to choose from seven School Improvement models with stringent requirements such as replacing the principal or 50% of the staff.  

At the federal level, ESSA allows much greater flexibility for school improvement plans to respond to locally-identified needs and approaches. However, your State Department of Education may enact State-specific requirements such as required personnel, approved providers, mandatory State-provided technical assistance, etc.

At a minimum, schools identified for support and improvement must conduct a comprehensive needs assessment and develop an improvement plan utilizing at least one evidence-based intervention. For more information on what “evidence-based” means under ESSA or to find evidence-based interventions, visit

  1. School Improvement Funding  

States must set-aside 7% of the Title I, Part A allocation to serve schools identified for CSI/TSI (an increase from the 4% required under NCLB). This is often referred to as “1003a funds” and States can decide if they want to distribute funds by formula or competitive grants.  

Free resource!  The Pearson Funding Team has put together a CSI/TSI Planning Guide to help districts navigate this process, including project planning questions and more information on federal funds that can be coordinated to serve state-identified schools.  Download your CSI/TSI Guide here.

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Grace Stopani

Grace Stopani

Director, Funding

Note: Fresh Ideas for Teaching blog contributors have been compensated for sharing personal teaching experiences on our blog. The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other agency, organization, employer or company.

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