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How-to & Why-to

Cross State High School Collaborative

How & Why to Implement Evidence-based Practices

The resources below provide practice-based learnings on how to implement evidence based HS redesign and improvement strategies & practices and why it is important and impactful to do so.

Organizing Adults

The “Organizing Adults” section on the “What the Evidence Says” page examines evidence and a research base that supports core principles to consider when redesigning high school staffing and how to most effectively deploy the adults in your building, like teaming and leadership structures, basically how to facilitate strong relationships between adults and students.

The people in the school building are the most important resource to consider both in terms of how they work together and the outcomes and impact of your redesign efforts. If the people – teachers, partners, administrators, AND students – are more satisfied, more productive, more supported, more connected and more engaged, then the evidence says that the conditions have been created where academic outcomes will flourish. The critical concept is thinking about how to make the support and advancement of students the fundamental responsibility of everyone in the building and how structures that organize adults can support this work’s acceleration.

  • The Six Core Principles of Improvement from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.
    Click to download (PDF)
  • Trends and Issues in High School Scheduling is a look at the history of high school scheduling, analyze and compare most common high school scheduling formats, evaluates the infrastructure of the school scheduling process and much more in this in-depth presentation
    Download the Presentation (PDF)
  • Schools as Organizations from the Research Alliance for New York City Schools examines school cliamte, teacher turnover, and student achievement in New York City.
    Download the Brief (PDF)
  • Relational Trust in Schools from EL Education reviews the definition, critical attributes, and conditions of relational trust.
    Download the Report (PDF)
  • Understanding the Human Side of School Leadership: Principals’ Impact on Teachers’ Morale, Self-Efficacy, Stress, and Commitment This qualitative study from Ontario, Canada, reveals that principal behaviors shape teacher emotions in important ways, influencing teacher morale, burnout, stress, commitment, and self and collective efficacy.
    Download the Report (PDF)
  • Opportunity Culture an “opportunity culture” extends the reach of excellent teachers and their teams to more students, for more pay, within recurring budgets. Visit the website.


Teacher Teams is a six-minute audiocast cohosted by Dr. Robert Balfanz, Director of the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University and Linda Muskauski, Knowledge Development Director at the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University. The pair discuss how teacher teams serve as the building blocks for high school redesign initiatives.


Examples of Actions Taken by Principals Trying to Lead Turnaround this report describes examples of actions that school principals have taken in trying to lead turnaround. Most principals have either not worked in a turnaround situation or have fallen short in a turnaround attempt, despite their best efforts. Although not all of the principals highlighted in this report have successfully turned around their schools, these examples can be helpful to other principals, teacher-leader teams, and principal supervisors who are looking to approach turnaround work with strategic, but less common actions in an effort to get new, better results. The authors draw on prior research to frame the examples.

The report also draws on the observations of two organizations with deep experience in the turnaround field and partners on the CST: Public Impact and the University of Virginia Darden/Curry Partnership for Leaders in Education. The examples of actions described in this report are organized into familiar categories: vision, goals, data, change leadership, teachers and leaders, instruction, and strategic partnerships. These categories are also tied to domains and practices described in the Center on School Turnaround’s Four Domains for Rapid School Improvement: A Systems Framework.
Download the Report (PDF)

Peer Coaching that Works: The Power of Reflection and Feedback in Teacher Triad Teams this report from McRel International examines that teachers, like all professionals, should continuously grow and learn by developing new knowledge, skills, and abilities that benefit their students academically, we do not believe that a deficit-based approach to coaching is the way to get there.
Download the Report (PDF)




Design and Data in Balance: Using Data-Driven Decision Making to Enable Student Success to gain a better understanding of the dynamic between data and design, the New Visions data team took a closer look at schools that have used thoughtful approaches to achieve impressive results. This study describes how teachers and school leaders at the High School of Telecommunication Arts and Technology (familiarly known as Telly) used data and design to strengthen programming for students in  grades 9 and 10, thereby improving outcomes for all students.
Download the Report (PDF)



Classroom Q&A with Larry Ferlazzo is a teacher blog on Education Week’s website. In this post, Mr. Ferlazzo responds to the question: What are ‘Small Learning Communities’ (dividing large campuses into special interest small schools) and how do they work?
Read the Post


Opportunity by Design: New High School Models for Student Success produced by the Carnegie Corporation of New York examines while it is important to graduate from high school, high school is not an end in itself, but rather preparation for college as well as life-long learning. It is one part of the path that leads students towards their ultimate potential in any of endeavor as well as in personal satisfaction in their lives. To reach these goals, students deserve the best possible education that we can provide.
Download the Report (PDF)



Leading Indicators of School Turnarounds: How to Know When Dramatic Change is On Track this report summarizes the research and experience from other settings—including venture capital, franchising, and research and development in industries such as pharmaceuticals—in which leaders have long relied on leading indicators to enhance the likelihood of success.
Download the Report (PDF)




School Turnaround Leaders: Competencies for Success part of the School Turnaround Collection from Public Impact
Fall 2016 updated with links to:

  • More on Instructional Leadership, the Heart of a Successful School Turnaround
  • Free “Opportunity Culture” Tools
  • Competencies Aligned with Career Paths for Teachers, Teacher-Leaders, and Principals

Download the Report (PDF)


Coaching & Developing Turnaround Leader Actions: Facilitator’s Guide contains the materials designed to implement a work session that builds the knowledge and capacity of leaders and staff members from regional comprehensive centers (RCCs), state education agencies (SEAs), and within-state regional centers.
Download the Guide (PDF)









Freshman Academy With almost 2,000 students, Bloomfield High School is a suburban Newark high school urban in demographics and small-town-like in culture. As the demographics and state accountability measures changed, it became apparent that the way to improve graduation rates was to start before students were enrolled. According to the principal, “The most important people at Bloomfield High School are now the ninth-grade students and teachers.” The teacher-designed freshman program with its summer orientation, team structure, and common planning time is credited with reducing student failures by 50 percent and significantly improving academic achievement.

Visit Bloomfield High School’s Website.





Putting Students at the Center

In the “Students at the Center” section on “What the Evidence Says” page examines the evidence-based research that highlights core principles to consider when redesigning high school experiences. As you design, think about how to keep students at the center of their educational experiences. Student apathy, lack of motivation, and behavior are factors underlying teacher stress and burnout. The longer students are in school, the less hopeful they become regarding their educational experiences. This has resulted in higher rates of student and teacher absenteeism, higher rates of student suspension and less learning ultimately.

A shift can occur that places students at the center when redesigning schools, which aligns students’ interest with teachers and administrators desired outcomes. This section gives evidence-based suggestions on how to produce this change of ideas and practices within schools. Also, it explores the importance of listening, valuing and implementing student voice in the decision-making process to achieve successful outcomes for all students. This section also underscores the importance of developing agency with students and the balancing act that is needed to help foster agency within students.


Freshman On-Track Toolkit prepared by the Network for College Success at the University of Chicago, the NCS Freshman On-Track Toolkit is a collection of protocols, reports, resources, and artifacts used by our experienced Coaches in their daily work to help schools better support students through the critical first year of high school.
Download the Report (PDF)




Beyond the Indicators: An Integrated School-Level Approach to Dropout Prevention from the Mid-Atlantic Equity Center summarizes the research on why students drop out of school, explains the research implications for how to create an integrated dropout prevention strategy, and highlights an innovative pilot project that yielded results in a matter of months—a how-to example that works.
Download the Report (PDF)




Overcoming the Poverty challenge to Enable College and Career Readiness for All examines the important and under-conceptualized thread in the weave of efforts needed to ensure that all students graduate from high school prepared for college and/or career
training: enhanced student supports.
Download the Report (PDF)




Springpoint published Designing New School Models, A Practical Guide in fall 2016, which outlines a three-phase process for new school model development, together with a set of planning tools for designers and leaders who want to engage in the work of doing school differently. The materials in the guide represent key insights gleaned from our work supporting school designers in the design, implementation, and iteration of new school models. For us, this work is anchored by three core priorities: young people, great practice, and iteration.
Download the Report (PDF)




Video: Report Card Conferences 

Report Card Conferences are conferences held between students and typically a non-school affiliated adult. Report Card Conferences offer students the opportunity to have a caring adult review their Attendance, Behavior, and Course Performance as part of their report card. The adults, which are typically not teachers but other caring adults from the community, praise and support students to continue the good work and discuss any ways they can improve.

Report Card Conferences also give students the opportunity to speak with adults who reinforce the value of success in school and encourage them to get help when experiencing difficulty in their courses and/or environment.


Video: Redesigning Student Support Systems

Redesigning Student Support Systems is a six-minute video which examines how high schools can redesign their student support systems using the A-B-Cs of Attendance, Behavior and Course Performance.


  • Educational Experiences that Matter to Seniors Graduation from an Urban Early College High School preparing underrepresented students in urban settings for college and career is the focus of this study prepared by SAGE  journals.
    Download the Study (PDF)
  • Reasons for Chronic Absenteeism Among Secondary Students This report presents information on the results of the Reasons for Chronic Absenteeism (RCA) Survey for secondary students. The data were collected directly from 5,790 chronically absent 6th-12th grade students in 8 states (CA, FL, IA, KY, ME, MI, MN, RI), 21 school districts, and 91 schools.
    Download the Report (PDF)    
    Download the Questionnaire (PDF)






Teaching & Learning

The “What the Evidence Says” page of the Teaching and Learning Section provides a learning sciences, research-based guide to teaching and learning practices.

The “How to Section” introduces models and approaches to support implementation of selected practices at your school or your district.

Implementing evidence-based practices is a human endeavor and an ongoing process. It requires continuous self-reflection on the ways we teach and on the use of students’ work as indicators to determine the success of meeting the needs of diverse learners.

The resources in the section include concise articles, successful teaching and learning experiences as well as applications that may be used by practitioners as reference to build up teaching, bring together evidence of effective teaching approaches while leveraging resourcefulness and proven classroom strategies and techniques to improve students and teachers’ learning. In addition, this section highlights proof points of learning as demonstrated by schools implementing specific practices or strategies.


Educator Competencies for Personalized, Learner-Centered Teaching the development of Educator Competencies for Personalized, Learner-Centered Teaching serves as a first step in identifying the knowledge, skills, and dispositions that educators need in order to create and thrive in effective personalized, learner-centered environments.
Download the Report (PDF)




Teacher Views and Voices the Center on Education Policy (CEP), in an effort to gather and amplify teachers’ voices about current education issues and their own profession, conducted a national survey of public school K-12 teachers in the winter of 2015-16. The survey focused on a strategic set of issues for policy-makers, educators, business leaders, and the public, including teachers’ views on their profession, standards, testing, and evaluations.
Download the Report (PDF)



Supporting the Whole Teacher from The Aspen Institute highlights the need for teacher preparation and professional learning to both build teachers’ own social and emotional competence and prepare teachers to foster these skills in their students. The case study cites key examples of programs supporting teachers in this work including RULER, an evidence-based program that trains teachers on how to model the social and emotional behaviors they want to see in their students, and the Center for Reaching and Teaching the Whole Child, which works with teacher preparation programs to help integrate teacher and student social and emotional competencies into their classes.
Download the Report (PDF)


Improving Academic Outcomes for Disadvantaged Students: Scaling Up Individualized Tutorials prepared by The Hamilton Project examines the need for a more robust safety net for students who fall behind grade level is a key systemic challenge for many urban school districts.
Download the Report (PDF)





Global Best Practices: An Internationally Benchmarked Self-Assessment Tool for Secondary Learning was created by the New England Secondary School Consortium to equip high schools with a clearly articulated, step-by-step process they can follow to identify existing issues or needs, and to shape school-improvement plans and priorities.
Download the Research Summary (PDF)
Download the Web-based Version



  • The Challenge of Culture Change: Embedding Restorative Practice in Schools this paper seeks to broaden the perspectives of senior and middle management and restorative practitioners around what restorative practice in schools can look like; and to present some practical guidelines which represent a strategic approach to the implementation of restorative practices, so that they “stick” – that is, become sustainable.
    Download the Report (PDF)







Blended Learning—An innovative blended learning program at Huntley High School is breaking down the barriers of the traditional school day and leveraging technology to help students learn better. Blended Learning classes at Huntley High School Inspire, Challenge and Empower students to become self-motivated learners through both face to face and online instruction. HHS utilizes a Flex Learning Model of Blended Learning.

As a national pioneer of this increasingly popular approach, the District has been recognized in a national peer-reviewed journalCNNParenting Magazine, the Pearson Education Blog, and other media.
Visit HHS’s Website

  • Competency-based Learning—Virtual Learning Academy (VLACS) is a New Hampshire online virtual public middle school and high school. VLACS offers students the opportunity to learn at their own pace, full or part time with 20,000 course enrollments. Some information about the program includes:
    • Learn through courses, projects, internships, travel, etc.
    • Registration is on-going. Students can start any time.
    • Certified teachers work to establish positive relationships with every student.
    • Complete a middle school program, earn a high school diploma, or an associate degree.
    • Learn at a pace that meets the individual student’s needs.
    • Students are welcome from any state or country.
    • Any New Hampshire student can attend tuition-free!
    • Offering full-time and part time opportunities for middle and high school students.
    • Visit VLACS’s Website
  • Casco Bay High School for Expeditionary Learning (CBHS) is a small and rigorous public high school that reflects the increasing diversity of Portland, Maine. Founded in 2005, CBHS is a school of choice for just under 400 students. Casco Bay challenges and supports students to become college-ready through our 3Rs: Rigor, Relevance, and Relationships. 98% of our graduates have been accepted to college. In 2017, CBHS was again named one of Maine’s top high schools by US News and World Report. CBHS is a credentialed school in the EL Education national network of schools, and one of the original “Mentor Schools.” In fall 2014, CBHS was named one of 20 “Deeper Learning” schools in the country and won the $100,000 Larry O’Toole Award from the Nellie Mae Foundation for advancing student-centered learning in New England.
    Visit the CBHS Website.
  • Sanborn Regional High School is a leader in competency-based learning. Located in New Hampshire, SRHS features flexible learning time to personalize instruction and provide students with support for intervention, extension and enrichment. Sanborn Regional High School is committed to sustaining a positive environment which promotes respect, academic excellence, and pride by encouraging independent thinking within a culture of collaboration.
    Download SRHS’s Core Values & Beliefs and Learning Expectations (PDF)
    Visit the SRHS’s Website

Video: An Introduction to Competency-Based Learning.

Sandborn Regional High School produced a nine-minute video focusing on Competency-Based Learning.


  • ELL—Bronx International High School is a progressive, team-based and community-based school dedicated to serving the academic and social needs of recently immigrated young people and their families. BIHS’s mission is to enhance students’ cultural awareness, English and native language proficiencies, and intellectual and collaborative abilities. These skills will empower them to become active participants in today’s interdependent and diverse world. By critically analyzing and responding to complex world issues, students will achieve academic, personal, and professional success, as they become advocates for themselves and their communities.
    Visit BIHS’s Website


Post-Secondary Options

In the “What the Evidence Says” section on post-secondary pathways is evidence and a research-base that supports core principles to consider when redesigning high school experiences. As you design pathways that see high school as a beginning and not an end, keep students’ options open, keep the choice of which pathway with students and their families, and collaborate beyond the school walls with families, employers, community partners and post-secondary education providers there are many implementation decisions to address.

In order to support the “know how” of school leaders, teachers, staff, and community we have compiled a variety of reports and guides. Each of these reports offer models and often share district and school sites where the approach has had a successful impact.

“More than an Application” below, for example, examines how New York City Schools offer a comprehensive college and career planning program to students and families beginning in the freshman year. It also provides an example of how to provide all students support to complete a comprehensive plan for success after high school.


More than an Application from the Research Alliance for New York City Schools looks at how two NYC high schools work with students and families on the road to college.
Download the Report (PDF)






 What it Takes to Create Linked Learning a 2016 report issued by Linked Learning on lessons learned from evaluation the approach of in practice. Click to download (PDF).






Not as Hard as You Think a report which details engaging high school students in work-based learning. Prepared by Jobs for the Future in conjunction with The Pathways to Prosperity NetworkClick to download (PDF).






Toward a Better Future evidence on improving employment outcomes for disadvantaged youth in the United States. Prepared in February, 2015 by MDRCClick to download (PDF).






Nudging for Success examines the behavioral barriers that prevent students from accessing college, completing a degree, and repaying their loans and cost-effective solutions that can be used to address these barriers.
Download the Report (PDF)





Earn While You Learn: Switzerland’s Vocational Education and Training System In countries such as Switzerland, Germany, and Austria, apprenticeships are an integral part of the educational system. Recently, the United States has shown increasing interest in learning more about the Swiss model and other European models. This brochure explains the key characteristics of the Swiss model, highlights Swiss-U.S. cooperation, and discusses current initiatives in the field.
Download the Report (PDF)




Degrees of Opportunity from AEI provides lessons learned from state-level data on post-secondary earnings outcomes and shows if we
move beyond our current on the bachelor’s degree and widen the aperture to include all the post-secondary pathways at our disposal, far more educational options emerge that can lead students to economic success.
Download the Reports (PDF)




ISA Outcome Evaluation This report summarizes key findings from Academy for Educational Development’s external evaluation of the Institute for Student Achievement (ISA). The six-year evaluation investigated the following key questions: 1) What are the outcomes for ISA students in terms of high school and college achievement?, and 2), How do outcomes for ISA students compare with those of similar students in non-ISA schools?
Download the Report (PDF)




Click image to enlarge.

Iowa BIG is a public school with no admissions requirements. Each partnering district has slots proportional to their financial commitment to the program. We currently serve an accurate cross section of our partner districts’ demographics.
Visit Iowa BIG’s Website






  • Tiger Ventures outlines a new, alternative high school which opened in Endicott, New York in fall 2016 with 45 students in 8th and 9th grades.
    Download the Reports (PDF)
  • Expanding Career Through Career and Technical Student Organizations an entry in ACTE’s (Association for Career and Technical Education) “Career Readiness Series” examines the benefits of CTSOs for strengthening students career readiness.
    Download the Report (PDF)
  • New Pathways to Careers and College: Examples, Evidence, and Prospects from MDRC describes some of the most prominent of these “pathway” models, identifies localities where the approach has gained the most traction, discusses the underlying principles that characterize the most promising  programs, and briefly presents the evidence of their potential to make a difference. The report concludes with a set of recommendations for future investment to strengthen and scale such programs.
    Download the Report (PDF)






  • Nuvu, in Cambridge Massachusetts, is an innovative school based on a project-based studio model lead by coaches who are leaders in their industry, experts in diverse fields, and passionate thought leaders.
    Click to visit Nuvu’s website.
  • The Tacoma School of the Arts began as an idea in 1998 and with the help of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Model Schools Program, the Tacoma Public Schools, and a variety of partners in the local arts and business community, the Tacoma School of the Arts (TSOTA) opened in the Fall of 2001. The school’s proximity to cultural organizations was intentional in order to provide opportunities for students to engage in the community.
    Click to visit TSOA’s website.
  • Checkout a day in the Life of several Albemarle County High School students as they have a variety of experiences to support post-secondary pathways.

Video: High School 2022 – A Day in the Life 

High School 2022 is a district-wide initiative to design, refine and deliver the future of high school for graduates in the class of 2022 and beyond. The Virginia Department of Education is currently developing the Profile of a Virginia Graduate, a framework that will be used for the State Board’s revision of high school graduation requirements for students graduating in the class of 2022. High School 2022 in Albemarle County, Virginia will be influenced and responsive to the Profile of a Virginia Graduate.

Click here to watch a video about Profile of a Virginia Graduate featuring Billy K. Cannaday, Jr., President of VA’s Board of Education.
Click to visit ACHS’s website.
  • Carl Wunsche Senior High School in Spring, TX’s mission statement is, “To prepare students for lifelong learning and achievement by focusing on student career interests.” They place students on one of three industry career paths—technology, health and professions—and supplements their curriculum with real-world experience.
    Click to visit CWSHS’s website.
  • Iowa Big is a program that attracts students from across Cedar Rapids, Iowa, because it provides the opportunity to earn high school credit by working on real-world projects designed by students, businesses, non-profits and government agencies. While working alongside local businesses and experts, Iowa BIG provides students a canvas to develop and engage with projects that have a profound impact on their own community. For this, they received the XQ award for turning the community into a hub of learning.
    Click to visit Iowa Big’s website.

Video: Iowa Big 

This four-minute video tells the story of Iowa Big.
  • Tiger Ventures is a high school fully integrated with a new venture incubator. Created by the school district, it will serve as a site to assist in the economic growth and sustainability of the community and as an educational partner – providing both internships for students as part of their school day and professional development for teachers and staff.
    Click to visit Tiger Ventures’ website.


Whole-School Improvement Efforts

We also offer a section which looks at what as been learned from efforts to implement evidence-based high school redesign and improvement efforts in a comprehensive manner.

Comprehensive Evidence-Based Improvement Efforts

Addressing Early Warning Indicators: Interim Impact Findings from the Investing in Innovation (i3) Evaluation of Diplomas Now from MDRC and ICF International which conducted an independent, experimental evaluation of 62 secondary schools in 11 school districts on the impact and implementation of Diplomas Now.
Download the Report (PDF)




  • Reforming Underperforming High Schools from MDRC outlining how urban high schools are in trouble — high dropout rates, low student academic achievement, and graduates who are unprepared for college are just some of the disappointing indicators. However, recent research points to a select number of approaches to improving student outcomes and reforming underperforming schools.
    Download the Report (PDF)
  • Making Progress Toward Graduation: Evidence from the Talent Development Secondary Model from MDRC demonstrates how Talent Development Secondary, which targets some of the most troubled schools in the country, seeks to raise the expectations of teachers and students, with the ultimate goal of preparing all students for post secondary education and employment.
    Download the Report (PDF)
  • Sustained Positive Effects on Graduation Rates: Produced by New York City’s Small Public High Schools of Choice from MDRC Between fall 2002 and fall 2008, New York City undertook a district-wide high school reform that is perhaps unprecedented in its scope, scale, and pace. The school district closed 23 large failing high schools (with graduation rates below 45 percent),1 opened 216 new small high schools (with different missions, structures, and student selection criteria), and implemented a centralized high school admissions process that assigns over 90 percent of the roughly 80,000 incoming ninth-graders each year based on their school preferences.
    Download the Report (PDF)
  • Headed to College: The Effects of New York City’s Small High Schools of Choice on Postsecondary Enrollment Since 2010, MDRC has released three research reports on the New York City Department of Education’s multi-year initiative to create small public high schools that are open to any student who wants to attend. This brief adds evidence from a fourth cohort on high school graduation and presents MDRC’s first results with respect to these schools’ effects on postsecondary enrollment.
    Download the Report (PDF)




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