States Partnering with Educational Service Agencies to Increase Capacity, Coherence, and Equity

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CCSSO has worked closely with several state education agencies (SEAs) over the past two years to build their capacity to achieve their goals for supporting school improvement in their states. That work informed a resource, States Partnering with Educational Service Agencies to Increase Capacity, Coherence, and Equity, which provides guidance and examples of how states might work with educational service agencies to deliver services to local education agencies (LEAs), school districts, and schools.

This resource provides information on what regional bodies are, types of governance structures across states, and examples of how states are using them to extend their capacity, build coherent systems and ensure equity across systems. Educational Service Units (ESAs) play an important role in educational systems and partnering with and leveraging them is a valuable way to connect the vision of an SEA to what happens day-to-day at the ground level – schools.

Though developed prior to extended school building closures due to Covid-19, this resource could inform states’ efforts as they work to build their capacity and strategically partner with intermediaries to provide services to schools and students. Anticipated budget shifts will necessitate thinking about partners in the field in new and strategic ways as states work to implement their restart and recovery plans.

ESAs are often utilized for specific purposes (e.g. title II), but working collaboratively might provide opportunities for intermediaries to more fully support state education goals. Restart and recovery after extended school closures will require coherence and consistency in the field, which will require all entities supporting students to work together.

The utilization and structures for working with ESAs vary from state to state, therefore we worked to distill applicable lessons and actions regardless of whether SEAs have formal authority over ESAs.

One example that highlights the importance of leveraging ESAs to support school improvement comes from the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE). PDE’s current ESA contract requires 27 ESAs to implement a cycle of support for each school in their region identified for additional targeted support and improvement (ATSI).

Additional examples can be found in the resource. Any state with questions can contact CCSSO's Senior Program Associate of School Improvement, Dani Pierce at

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