School Improvement: Progress Monitoring

Under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), as amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) (link is external), districts must monitor the progress of schools identified in need of Comprehensive Support and Improvement (CSI) (regardless of whether they receive ESEA school improvement funding under section 1003). The specific monitoring processes and requirements are determined by the SEA. School improvement plans that do not include clear metrics and effective protocols for measuring progress may be difficult to implement and less likely to be successful. Rather than treating progress monitoring as a process separate from plan development, SEAs should work with districts and schools to ensure that day-to-day systems and protocols facilitate gathering information on short- and long-term metrics over time. SEAs should also establish key milestones throughout the school year to assess progress to date, make decisions, and implement course corrections as needed.


Common Challenges and Potential Risks

  • Due to limited local data collection capacities, the SEA may be reluctant to establish rigorous monitoring requirements.
  • SEAs may struggle to set rigorous but attainable expectations for improvement in CSI schools.
  • SEAs may be unsure of what measures to use to best track progress and drive improvement:
    • Customized versus uniform measures (i.e., what is common across all schools versus what is customized)
    • Comprehensive versus limited measures
    • Ambitious versus achievable targets
    • Transparent versus selective reporting
  • SEAs may not have clear alignment between accountability measures and exit criteria and progress monitoring measures.
  • SEAs may not have systems to track the performance of schools, which may help to identify which strategies lead to long-term success for these schools, after exiting CSI status.
  • School improvement plans often do not include measures and processes for tracking progress of strategy implementation, or for evaluating and refining intervention strategies.


Strategies for Progress Monitoring

As part of implementation and decision making, there are different ways to examine whether interventions are having the intended results. Performance monitoring involves tracking data about an intervention to see how performance compares to identified targets and goals. Rigorous evaluations measure the effectiveness of an intervention, answering questions about the impact of a specific intervention on relevant outcomes.

  • Performance monitoring involves regularly collecting and analyzing data to track progress against targets and goals. Performance monitoring can help identify whether key elements of a state’s theory of action or logic model are being implemented as planned and whether the intervention is meeting interim goals and milestones and suggests ways the intervention could be changed for continuous improvement.1 Performance information can also provide insight into whether the expected outcomes are being achieved.
  • Evaluations of effectiveness may be appropriate when SEAs or districts want to know if an intervention affected the intended student or educator outcomes. These types of evaluations may meet strong evidence or moderate evidence levels.


State Examples

Examples of State Approaches to Progress Monitoring

The Tennessee Department of Education employs a risk analysis instrument to identify districts for targeted technical assistance and monitoring, which include CSI schools. This instrument uses more than 60 indexes across numerous areas, including: federal funding, student achievement, human capital, number of federal discretionary grants received, audit findings, and predictive performance indexes. These indexes are weighted to inform both fiscal and program monitoring.

Source: US Department of Education. (n.d.). Tennessee State Plan. State ESSA Plan Approved January 23, 2019. Retrieved from

New Jersey

The New Jersey Department of Education’s Office of Strategic Alignment plans to use its integrated school performance reporting system to enhance its district monitoring functions by increasing the level of detail in local data reported. For CSI schools, this more detailed data can help make progress monitoring more rigorous and focused. The Office of Strategic Alignment is developing a progress monitoring protocol to measure implementation and effectiveness to foster continuous improvement.

Source: Source: US Department of Education. (n.d.). New Jersey State Plan. State ESSA Plan Approved August 9, 2017. Retrieved from


Additional Resources2

Advancing School Improvement in SEAs through Research Practice Partnerships (link is external) This resource from the Council of Chief State School Officers highlights ways that research practice partnerships can be leveraged by SEAs to support the evaluation of their statewide systems of support and the impact of chosen school improvement interventions.

CCSSO Principles of Effective School Improvement Systems, Deep Dive 8 (link is external) This resource from the Council of Chief State School Officers shows how to establish clear expectations and report progress on a sequence of ambitious yet achievable short- and long-term school improvement benchmarks that focus on both equity and excellence.

CCSSO Principles of Effective School Improvement Systems, Deep Dive 9 (link is external) This resource from the Council of Chief State School Officers shows how to implement improvement plans rigorously and with fidelity, and, since everything will not go perfectly, gather actionable data and information during implementation. There are also sections on how to evaluate efforts and monitor evidence to learn what is working, for whom, and under what circumstances, and to continuously improve over time.

District of Columbia School Planning Guide (link is external) This resource from the District of Columbia Office of the State Superintendent of Education provides school teams with the knowledge and tools that they need to quickly develop a functioning implementation plan. It is a useful resource for district leaders that contains suggested tools and processes to answer four critical questions that are the foundation of a good plan.

Four Domains for Rapid School Improvement: Indicators of Effective Practice (link is external) Developed by the Center on School Turnaround at WestEd, this resource provides a research-based school improvement framework to guide SEAs, districts, and schools as they engage in this challenging work. The framework lays out four “domains” or areas of focus that have been found to be crucial to successful turnaround, and includes recommended indicators and metrics for progress monitoring specific to each domain.

Logic Models for Program Design, Implementation, and Evaluation: Workshop Toolkit This resource from the Center on School Turnaround is designed to help practitioners learn the purpose of logic models, the different elements of a logic model, and the appropriate steps for developing and using a logic model for program evaluation.

Measuring School Turnaround Success (link is external) This resource from the Center on School Turnaround discusses a school improvement theory of action as well as indicators and metrics to analyze throughout each phase of the theory of action to inform the extent to which the improvement efforts are successful.


Section 1: Needs Assessment Section 2: Strategy Selection Section 3: Grant Fund Distribution Section 4: Implementation and Progress Monitoring

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1 “A logic model is a visual representation of the assumptions and theory of action that underlie the structure of an education program” (Source: National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, 2016). [Return]

2 The inclusion of information or links on this site from sources outside the U.S. Department of Education is done for purposes of information-sharing only and does not imply endorsement of any such information, products, or services by the U.S. Department of Education. [Return]