The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) distributes competitive federal funds through the School Redesign Grant to help districts improve their lowest-performing schools. The school and districts, in partnership with the state, develop a sustainable improvement plan, which guides the approach to rapid school improvement. The state requires that the plan, in order to meet both state and federal requirements, must incorporate at least one strategy backed by evidence that meets the criteria from one of the top three evidence tiers as defined by the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The department provides support to potential applicants on using evidence-based practices through its How Do We Know Initiative.
In 2021, DESE used state funds to award almost $900,000 in evidence-based early literacy grants, which required that schools implement evidence-based practices in “culturally responsive and sustaining high-quality literacy instruction.” Also in 2021, DESE adopted a new statewide definition of evidence. DESE included the definition in plans required by the Student Opportunity Act (SOA). As part of the SOA, “districts are required to submit three-year, evidence-based plans aimed at closing persistent disparities in achievement among student subgroups.”