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The ESF defines 5 Prioritized Levers that are essential in high performing campuses. Each lever has Essential Actions that describe what effective schools do to support powerful teaching and learning. The framework also includes District Commitments organized by Levers that describe the conditions local education agencies must provide so that schools are set up for success. The Essential Actions describe what effective schools do to support powerful teaching and learning. Beneath each Essential Action is a set of descriptions that define high level performance.

ESF Levers



Lever 1:

Strong School

Leadership and


Effective campus instructional leaders with clear roles and responsibilities develop, implement, and monitor focused improvement plans that address the causes of low performance.



Lever 2 


Well Supported


Campus leadership retains effective, well-supported teachers by strategically recruiting, selecting, assigning, and building the capacity of teachers so that all students have access to high-quality educators.



Lever 3:

Positive School 


Positive school culture requires compelling and aligned vision, mission, goals and values, explicit behavioral expectations, and management system, proactive and responsive student support services, and involved families and community.



Lever 4:



All students have access to a TEKS-aligned, guaranteed and viable curriculum, assessments, and resources to engage in learning at appropriate levels of rigor.


Lever 5:




All students have rigorous learning experiences because the school ensures objective-driven daily lessons, classroom routines, and formative assessments that yield the data necessary for teachers to reflect, adjust, and deliver instruction that meets the needs of each student.

ESF Levers are comprised of Foundational and Transformational Essential Actions.

Foundational Essential Actions

Actions that schools need to address first before moving on to more rigorous campus practices.

Transformational Essential Actions

This is what strong schools do once Foundational Essential Actions have been implemented with fidelity.

Lever 1

Prioritized lever 1: Strong Leadership and planning

Go to Lever 2
Go to Lever 3
Go to Lever 4
Go to Lever 5

1. Develop campus instructional leaders (principal, assistant principal, teacher leaders) with clear roles and responsibilities


  • Campus instructional leaders have clear, written, and transparent roles and responsibilities, and core leadership tasks are scheduled on weekly calendars (observations, debriefs, team meetings).

  • Performance expectations are clear, written, measurable, and match the job responsibilities.

  • Campus instructional leaders use consistent, written protocols and processes to lead their department, grade-level teams, or other areas of responsibility.

  • Campus instructional leaders meet on a weekly basis to focus on student progress and formative data.

  • Principal improves campus leaders through regularly scheduled, job-embedded professional development consistent with best practices for adult learning, deliberate modeling, and observation and feedback cycles.


2. Focused plan development and regular monitoring of implementation and outcomes


  • There is an improvement plan in place with few focused priorities, clear timelines, milestones, metrics, and task owners that address the root causes of low performance.

  • Campus leaders monitor plan implementation and hold task owners accountable for execution of the work.

  • Campus leaders regularly use data and other evidence to track progress towards intended outcomes.

  • If milestones and benchmarks are not met, campus leaders make modifications to reach the required result.


Prioritized lever 2:

Effective, well supported teachers

Go to Lever 1
Go to Lever 3
Go to Lever 4
Go to Lever 5

1. Recruit, select, assign, induct, and retain a full staff of highly qualified educators

  • The campus implements ongoing and proactive recruitment strategies that include many sources for high-quality candidates.

  • Clear selection criteria, protocols, hiring and induction processes are in place and align with the school's vision, mission, values, and goals.

  • Campus leaders implement targeted and personalized strategies to retain high-performing staff.

  • Teacher placements are strategic based on student need and teacher strengths.

  • Grade-level and content-area teams have strong, supported teacher leaders trained in adult learning facilitation and team dynamics.

  • Preferred substitutes are recruited and retained.


2. Build teacher capacity through observation and feedback cycles

  • Campus instructional leaders use normed tools and processes to conduct observations, capture trends, and track progress over time.

  • Observation debrief conversations occur within 48 hours of observation and include high-leverage, bitesized, clear, actionable feedback with clear models and opportunities to practice.

  • Campus instructional leaders conduct follow up observations after coaching sessions to monitor implementation of feedback within agreed-upon time frames.

  • Campus instructional leaders determine the frequency of observations based on teacher needs and student results on formative assessments.

Lever 2
Lever 3

Prioritized lever 3:

Positive School Culture

Go to Lever 1
Go to Lever 2
Go to Lever 4
Go to Lever 5

1. Compelling and aligned vision, mission, goals, values focused on a safe environment and high expectations


  • Stakeholders are engaged in creating and continually refining the campus’ mission, vision, and values.

  • Campus practices and polices demonstrate high expectations and shared ownership for student success.

  • Staff members share a common understanding of the mission, vision, and values in practice and can explain how they are present in the daily life of the school.

  • Regular campus climate surveys assess and measure progress on student and staff experiences.


2. Explicit behavioral expectations and management systems for students and staff


  • All staff and students are taught, practice, and reinforce behavioral expectations with a common language.

  • All staff and students understand a system of rewards and consequences, including restorative practices, and consistently implements the system with fidelity.

  • Rituals and public forums celebrate students who model expectations and demonstrate behaviors that reflect campus values.

  • Data systems exist to track all discipline referrals, attendance, and interventions and the data is regularly reviewed to identify trends and adapt accordingly.


3. Proactive and responsive student support services

  • The school has a campus-wide program to proactively teach mental health and wellness skills to students.

  • School staff meet frequently to identify individual student needs and work together to support and monitor individual progress, behavior, and mental health needs.

  • Students are provided with the support services (e.g., counseling, mentoring, external service referrals) that address their needs.


4. Involving families and community


  • The campus creates an inclusive and welcoming environment that engages all families in critical aspects of student learning.

  • Systems are in place to engage families on a regular basis about their child’s performance in a positive, constructive, and personalized way.

  • Multiple communication strategies with families are integrated into teacher roles and responsibilities.

  • Family and community engagement and impact data are reviewed regularly, and plans are adapted as needed.


Prioritized lever 4:

High-quality curriculum

Go to Lever 1
Go to Lever 2
Go to Lever 3
Go to Lever 5

1. Curriculum and interim assessments aligned to TEKS with a year-long scope and sequence

  • The scope and sequence, units, and interim assessments are all aligned to priority and supporting standards for all tested subject and grade areas, and grades PK-2nd mathematics and reading.

  • Interim assessments aligned to state standards and the appropriate level of rigor are administered three to four times per year to determine if students learned what was taught. Time for corrective instruction is built into the scope and sequence.

  • Curricular resources with key ideas, essential questions, and recommended materials, including content-rich texts, are used across classrooms.

  • The school provides teachers with time at the beginning and throughout the year to internalize the curriculum and its resources.

Lever 4
Lever 5

Prioritized lever 5:

Effective Instruction

Go to Lever 1
Go to Lever 2
Go to Lever 3
Go to Lever 4

1. Objective-driven daily lesson plans with formative assessments


  • All teachers create and submit daily lesson plans that include clear objectives, opening activities, time allotments that indicate the amount of time spent on each step of the lesson, multiple, differentiated paths of instruction to a clearly defined curricular goal, and formative assessments along with exemplar responses.

  • Campus instructional leaders review lesson plans frequently for alignment to the standards, the scope and sequence, and the expected level of rigor, and provide teachers with feedback and lesson planning support.


2. Effective classroom routines and instructional strategies


  • Three to five instructional strategies (e.g. monitoring aggressively, student-to-student discourse, strategic prompts), classroom procedures, and routines are introduced, modeled, and practiced with consistency and fidelity in all classrooms.

  • Classroom instruction incorporates rigorous, high-quality experiences that promote critical-thinking skills.

  • Teachers maximize instructional time through consistent, efficient, and visible structures (e.g., posted agendas, class opening, homework collection, within-class transitions, and formative assessments).

  • Campus instructional leaders conduct regular walk-throughs and observations to ensure consistent implementation of expectations.


3. Data-driven instruction


  • Campus instructional leaders review disaggregated data to track and monitor the progress of all students and provide evidence-based feedback to teachers.

  • Teachers use a corrective instruction action planning process, individually and in PLCs to analyze data, identify trends in student misconceptions, determine the root cause as to why students may not have learned the concept, and create plans to reteach.

  • Teacher teams have protected time built into the master schedule to meet frequently and regularly for in-depth conversations about formative and interim student data, effective instructional strategies, and possible adjustments to instructional delivery.

  • Student progress toward measurable goals (e.g., % of class and individual student mastering of objectives, 7 Effective Schools Framework Draft 8/1/2018 individual student fluency progress, etc.) is visible in each and every classroom and throughout the school to foster student ownership and goal setting. 4. RTI for students with learning gaps

  • All staff are engaged in coordinated and proactive planning to identify students who have significant learning gaps or who lack key foundational skills and provide them with timely interventions throughout the year.

  • All teachers use a student tracking system that includes assessment information, course grades, teacher referrals, and attendance to monitor individual student progress and the intensity and schedule of interventions.

  • Teachers or other school staff keep families informed and involved in the process of providing interventions for struggling learners.

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