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Press Release

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

CCSSO Releases Principles of Effective School Improvement

Contact:Olympia Meolaolympia.meola@ccsso.org202-336-7071

Washington, D.C. (June 21, 2017) - The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) today released a set of principles to inform how states design effective systems to improve low-performing schools and provide an equitable education for all students.

While continuous improvement in all schools is critical, state education leaders are taking the lead to create change that will drive dramatic improvement for students attending lowest-performing schools and those with the greatest achievement gaps.  

For years, states have worked to improve low-performing schools and close achievement gaps, but today, under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), state education leaders have the flexibility and authority necessary to work in close partnership with districts, schools, educators, parents, students and communities to design systems that will effectively improve schools for all students.  

"State chiefs are committed to closing achievement gaps and ensuring all kids receive a quality education no matter where they live or go to school," said Chris Minnich, executive director of CCSSO. "While creating strong accountability systems is important, we know these systems will only create change for children when they are aligned with robust supports and interventions, especially in our lowest-performing schools. Improving all schools is a matter of equity, and state chiefs now have the opportunity under the Every Student Succeeds Act to design systems that will best meet the needs of the kids in their states and local communities."  

Since ESSA passed in December 2015, states have been working with stakeholders at the state and local level to write plans on how they plan to spend federal funding under ESSA and meet new requirements under the law, for approval by the U.S. Department of Education. ESSA plans encompass one part of what states are doing to improve schools, and federal law provides a floor, not a ceiling, for state action. Outside of these plans, states are empowered to continue working with their stakeholders to create school improvement systems that will best meet the needs of students in their state.  

To assist in these ongoing efforts, CCSSO has released the Principles of Effective School Improvement Systems - principles created from states and for states. The Principles articulate the core components of an effective school improvement system to inform state-specific efforts on how best to improve outcomes for the students enrolled in the schools identified for support.  

Several states, including Nevada and Tennessee, have already begun putting systems in place aligned with these principles.  

These principles build on CCSSO's Principles for Next-Generation State Accountability Systems, which highlights the inextricable link between accountability and school improvement, as well as Leading for Equity: Opportunities for State Chiefs, a series of commitments to help state education chiefs take action to achieve educational equity.  

Here is an overview of the Principles of Effective School Improvement Systems:

1.       Elevate school improvement as an urgent priority at every level of the system.
2.       Make decisions based on what will best serve each and every student with the expectation that all students can and will master the knowledge and skills necessary for success in college, career, and civic life.
3.       Engage early, regularly, and authentically with stakeholders and partners.
4.       Select at each level the strategy that best matches the context at hand.
5.       Support local education agencies and schools in designing high-quality school improvement plans.
6.       Focus on ensuring the highest-need schools have great leaders and teachers.
7.       Dedicate sufficient resources and align resources to advance the system's goals. 
8.       Establish clear expectations and report progress on a sequence of ambitious yet achievable short- and long-term benchmarks.
9.       Implement improvement plans rigorously and with fidelity, and evaluate efforts and monitor evidence to continuously improve over time.
10.     Plan from the beginning how to sustain successful school improvement efforts.  

Read more details the Principles of Effective School Improvement Systems and how these principles can be used to inform a state system here.  


The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) is a nonpartisan, nationwide, nonprofit organization of public officials who head departments of elementary and secondary education in the states, the District of Columbia, the Department of Defense Education Activity, and five U.S. extra-state jurisdictions. CCSSO provides leadership, advocacy, and technical assistance on major educational issues. The Council seeks member consensus on major educational issues and expresses their views to civic and professional organizations, federal agencies, Congress, and the public.