Evidence-Based Programs

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) was signed by President Barack Obama on December 10, 2015. ESSA reauthorized the 50-year-old Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), the nation’s national education law and longstanding commitment to equal opportunity for all students. We have organized information here to help you determine local needs and evidence-based strategies to best serve your student population.

ESSA offers state education agencies the opportunity to use evidence to support school improvement and better outcomes for all students. This evidence-based approach encourages state and district leaders to consider multiple tiers of evidence and examine the strength of evidence in decision making.

ESSA's definition of “evidence-based” includes four levels of evidence. The type of evidence described has generally been produced through formal studies and research. The strength of the study is used to classify the level of evidence.

Evidence-Based Infographic

The chart below aligns to ESSA's four evidence categories and outlines the types of research studies completed on select Voyager Sopris Learning® programs. For a closer look at the four evidence categories in ESSA, view the Evidence-Based Requirements Explained tab above.

For any activity, strategy, or intervention to be considered as “Demonstrates a Rationale,” a logic model articulating the ongoing evaluation efforts to examine effects must be used. A solid logic model will provide the evidence needed for classification as “Demonstrates a Rationale” under federal criteria.

ESSA Evidence

StrongModeratePromisingDemonstrates a RationaleDownload Data Sheet (PDF)
StrongModeratePromisingDemonstrates a RationaleDownload Data Sheet (PDF)




StrongModeratePromisingDemonstrates a RationaleDownload Data Sheet (PDF)
Professional Development



LETRS Classic


ESSA emphasizes "evidence-based" approaches that have demonstrated statistically significant positive effect on student outcomes. ESSA identifies four levels of evidence: strong evidence, moderate evidence, promising evidence, and evidence that demonstrates a rationale. The levels do not correlate to the strength of student outcomes. Rather they define the study criteria.

Guide to Understanding ESSAWhile collecting and reviewing evidence, it is important to understand the different types of evidence and how to assess the quality of each. Each evidence type has the potential to contribute to a consumer’s decision regarding the use of a specific intervention. We created a resource guide, Evidence-Based Claims: A Helpful Guide to Understanding ESSA, to help distill this information.

The chart below identifies four different types of evidence—anecdotal, descriptive, correlational, causal—and highlights strengths and considerations of each evidence type. Also, below, is a Voyager Sopris Learning webinar video clip, which may be helpful.

Evidence TypeStrengthsConsiderations and Limitations


May provide an indication of the context in which the intervention may be expected to be effective.

May identify aspects from user experienced that may enhance or reduce effectiveness.

May help identify interventions that are promising enough to warrant more research.

Cannot provide strong support for claims based on subjective impressions.


May help identify interventions that are promising enough to warrant more rigorous research.

Does not include a comparison group so impossible to know what would have happened without the intervention.

Cannot alone provide strong support for claims about effect on outcome of interest.


Useful starting point when learning about new interventions.

Cannot conclusively demonstrate that intervention gets results because it cannot rule out other possible explanations for differences in outcomes among users and non-users.


Determines effectiveness with confidence.

Ensures only difference between treatment group and comparison group is the intervention itself.

Not readily available for many educational products.

Resources to Research Evidence:

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