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​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Using Evidence-Based Practices for School Transformation


Betheny Lyke, Ed.D. Director, Illinois Center for School Improvement


Transforming schools is a journey, not a destination. And the foundation of our journey to improve student outcomes is implementing and monitoring evidenced-based practices (EBPs). We don’t have to start from scratch by inventing and testing programs on our own. Using EBPs means that we select the programs and practices that research tells us serve to improve adult practice and student achievement and implement them in our schools and districts.

We all know that what works in one district may not be effective in another. We have to look at data to learn about each district’s unique student population, individual strengths, and challenges, and then find the EBPs that are best suited to address identified issues. More important, there must be a collective will to initiate transformation and then to see it through to the end. 

You may be interested to know that the way in which the Illinois Center for School Improvement (Illinois CSI) works with districts is also evidence-based. We are ahead of the curve in cultivating EBPs and protocols as supports and interventions for the districts we serve. Our services are rooted in research and tailored for each district, in much the same way that you tailor EBPs for your schools. We work to empower you with research and best practices, allowing you to drive your own transformations.

Just as the data are showing that your approach to implementing EBPs in schools is having a positive effect, the big-picture data we are collecting about our services prove that our approach to systemic improvement works.

The services and resources provided by our staff have led to improvements in student achievement and transformative changes of practice at the school and district levels. As our Annual Review 2016 chronicles, the districts we serve are achieving increases in ACT scores at a faster rate than are other Illinois schools. In addition, 92 percent of the school districts we serve report that they have established routines that support collaborative work and evidence-based deliberation, and 93 percent report that they have made enhancements to their continuous improvement plans as a result of their engagement with Illinois CSI. These and other highly positive outcomes show that Illinois CSI works.


Betheny Lyke, Ed.D.


Where Is the Proof?

As noted, an evidence-based approach to systemic and continuous school improvement is a given at Illinois CSI. It is simply "what we do" as we translate the best available research into context-specific support through collaborative partnerships.

The definition of "evidence-based" found in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), applied broadly in approximately 60 ESSA provisions that encourage, incentivize, or require an evidence-based approach, provides an additional lens through which we consider research.

ESSA calls for school support and improvement activities that are federally resourced within a statewide system of support to demonstrate "a statistically significant effect on improved outcomes based on at least one well-designed and well-implemented study" within the field of existing research. Relative to this criterion, ESSA defines the strength of evidence as measured by the quality and rigor of study design.

Another criterion of an evidence-based intervention applies to most other ESSA provisions. The criterion promotes activities that are likely to result in improved outcomes because they rest upon a "demonstrated rationale based on high-quality research findings or positive evaluation." Activities implemented under this criterion must include evaluation efforts, thus expanding the body of evidence that supports them.

The U.S. Department of Education has issued a non-regulatory guidance document providing additional considerations relative to ESSA's multiple tiers of evidence. The document also offers suggestions for effective decision-making that directly align with each step of Illinois CSI's continuous improvement process.

Illinois CSI will continue to support districts as they identify, select, implement, and monitor evidence-based practices that are based upon robust needs assessment and root-cause analysis and that support system-wide goals and worthy targets. We consider research at every stage of this process relative to each district's unique context and setting, the population it serves, and the experiential wisdom demonstrated by its practitioners and stakeholders. 

We will support practices with "strong," "moderate," or "promising" evidence, in accordance with ESSA, by continuing to bring research to the forefront of our collaborative conversations and through our online library of research summaries and practical resources. As ESSA sparks expansion of the federal What Works Clearinghouse (hosted by the U.S. Department of Education's Institute of Education Sciences) and other educational research databases, Illinois CSI staff will provide support to users seeking to navigate these new or enhanced resources. 

We will support district activities designed to interpret, communicate, and fulfill evidence-based expectations as the state-wide plan for ESSA implementation unfolds. While alignment with ESSA expectations is a beneficial byproduct of our work, however, our driving goal is much more focused on helping districts to establish or enhance an evidence-based culture versus a culture of compliance. As a result, we will continue to support districts seeking to strengthen their use of evidence-based practices that improve outcomes for students, educators, and families.



Guided by Our Goals

Jean M. Neal, Superintendent, Georgetown-Ridge Farm CUSD 4

Jean M. Neal, Superintendent, Georgetown-Ridge Farm CUSD 4

Illinois CSI District Assistance Team members (pictured below) have coached instructional leaders in the implementation of the school improvement plan (SIP) and have provided support and connected us with necessary resources to meet our goals and objectives. When we started the school year, a primary goal was to track our data related to our SIP goals. Thus far, we have focused on analyzing and interpreting student achievement data. We have completed our fall assessments and have conducted data reviews of our SIP goals, nationally normed assessments, and PARCC student performance data at the building and district leadership team levels. We presented the 2016 PARCC results to our Board of Education and conducted a growth-rate comparison of districts within a two-county range. Now that the new calendar year has arrived, we will conduct a midyear data review to check our progress.

Last fall, we planned to develop quarterly assessments for reading and mathematics this school year. However, teachers expressed that they would like to revisit training on assessment and assessment writing. As a result of teacher input, we put a professional development plan in place for the 2016–17 school year to ensure that teachers were comfortable with the process of writing quarterly assessments, and we will begin writing these assessments in the summer of 2017.  

Group Picture

In the spring of 2017, we will pilot the Illinois CSI Student Achievement Five-Step Data Review Process with the support of a member of the Illinois CSI District Assistance Team. In the summer of 2017, we will conduct planning to fully implement the process beginning in the fall of 2017. 

We are excited to implement the Illinois CSI Student Achievement Five-Step Data Review Process at the instructional, school, and district leadership team levels. Our Illinois CSI District Assistance Team members are invested in supporting, coaching, and providing resources as needed as we strive to improve our students' academic performance and meet their educational needs.



Round Two: Illinois CSI's 2016–17 Research Forum Series Tackles School Culture

Group Picture

On Wednesday, February 8, 2017, the Illinois CSI Research Forum series will resume with an event in Bloomington, Illinois, featuring Anthony Muhammad, Ph.D. The event, titled The Will to Lead, the Skill to Teach, is the second of two Research Forums scheduled for the 2016–17 school year.

Dr. Muhammad is a best-selling author and the chief executive officer of New Frontier 21 Consulting, a company that provides high-quality professional development to educators worldwide. He is a leading voice in the areas of school culture and organizational climate. Previously, Dr. Muhammad served as a middle school teacher and as an assistant principal and principal at both the middle school and high school levels.

The Research Forum will address the following objectives:

  • Participants will understand how to communicate about essential issues without destroying relationships.
  • Participants will understand how to heal the wounds and minimize the effects of bad experiences.
  • Participants will understand how to provide meaningful, critical support for people that they supervise before imposing accountability measures.
  • Participants will learn how to create fair and effective systems of accountability.

Dr. Muhammad returns to Illinois CSI after speaking at a well-received Research Forum this past October on the topic of Unmasking Adult Expectations for Student Performance. Full videos, photos, and handouts from that event can be found on the Group Picture Illinois CSI Website. Dr. Muhammad's books will be available for purchase after the February Research Forum.

Research Forums are open to districts receiving Priority and Focus services from Illinois CSI. You can join in the conversation on Twitter at (#ILCSIResearchForum) and share your thoughts on the topic.

The Illinois CSI Research Forums bring together national and local experts who share the latest in research and best practices with district leaders. Information about the Research Forums and resources from past forums can be found at

Annual Statewide ESSA Conference, February 13, 2017

Illinois Resource Center will host its annual statewide ESSA conference February 13–15, 2017, at Chicago's Sheraton Grand Hotel. Illinois CSI is proud to partner with Springfield SD 186, Berwyn South SD 100, and Meridian CUSD 101, to share best practices identified in the course of our collaborative efforts. Mark your calendar and see the presentation details below:

Planning the Work While Working the Plan: Continuous Improvement Redefined

Presented by Springfield SD 186

11:00 a.m. Central Time, Monday, February 13, 2017, Mayfair Room 


Berwyn South Apple Distinguished District: Continuous District Improvement With Illinois CSI

Presented by Berwyn South SD 100

2:00 p.m. Central Time, Monday, February 13, 2017, Columbus A/B Room


Restorative Justice: A Student-Centered Approach

Presented by Meridian CUSD 101

11:30 a.m. Central Time, Wednesday, February 15, 2017, Missouri Room



Illinois CSI-Led Presentations:


Social-Emotional Learning: It Starts With Classroom Culture and Climate

10:00 a.m. Central Time, Monday, February 13, 2017, Chicago-8 Room


Family Engagement Action Guides

11:00 a.m. Central Time, Monday, February 13, 2017, Chicago-8 Room


Where is Technology in the Illinois Learning Standards?

3:00 p.m. Central Time, Monday, February 13, 2017, Colorado Room


Integrating Technology Using the SAMR Method

11:00 a.m. Central Time, Tuesday, February 14, 2017, Colorado Room



For more information or to register for the conference, visit


A Walkthrough Classroom Assessment

Our series of learning modules, titled A Guide Through the Classroom Assessment Process, can be found here. This series consists of six modules focused on the skills needed to create valuable classroom assessments yielding data that enhance the learning process.

The six modules are:

  1. Introduction to Assessment
  2. Alignment and Planning
  3. Item Types
  4. Scoring
  5. Score Reporting and Feedback
  6. Validity

Each module consists of a slide deck, a narrated video presentation, and handouts (for selected modules). Districts may access and use these modules as needed for internal professional development.


Social Media Soundbites

Upcoming Events

February 1, 2017
District Leadership Team Learning Network for Focus Districts
Springfield, Illinois

February 2, 2017
District Leadership Team Learning Network for Focus Districts
Mt Vernon, Illinois

February 8, 2017
Research Forum
Bloomington, Illinois

February 22, 2017
District Leadership Team Learning Network for Priority Districts
Naperville, Illinois

February 23, 2017
District Leadership Team Learning Network for Priority Districts
Springfield, Illinois

Contact Us

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Suite 200
Naperville, Ill. 60563-1486