Leveraging ESSA to Increase College Readiness and Completion

The new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) provides a tremendous opportunity for states to deepen and catalyze the partnerships between their K–12 and higher education systems. This new legislation explicitly focuses on improving the college and career readiness of all students, including requiring states to set high standards that are aligned to state higher education entrance requirements.

With aligned goals across the education system, states can ensure that all students graduate high school prepared for college and careers and transition seamlessly into higher education, ultimately reducing the need for remediation and increasing postsecondary completion rates.

NEW! Shining a Spotlight on K-12 and Higher Ed Alignment in ESSA
This brief details the extent to which the both the 34 states that submited ESSA plans in September 2017  — as well as states as a whole — took advantage of the approaches from Leveraging ESSA and updated accountability measures to align K–12 and higher education to support long-term student success.

It also provides suggested actions for states as they continue to implement and adjust the activities outlined in ESSA plans.

States Leading on Alignment of K–12 and Higher Education in Round 1
This brief details the extent to which the first seventeen states to submit ESSA plans in April 2017 took advantage of the approaches suggested in the previous Leveraging ESSA briefs to align K–12 and higher education to support long-term student success.

It also provides suggested actions for states that will be submitting ESSA plans during round 2 in September 2017.

Aligning K–12 and Higher Education Goals To Support Success for All Students
A streamlined set of goals — all pointing in the same direction — can support and inspire collective action to deliver more youth prepared to engage with the new economy.


This policy brief identifies clear strategies for developing aligned K–12 and higher education goals and outlines how states can use those goals to drive strategic actions to support all youth on their path to attain a postsecondary credential of value.

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Strategies To Support Student K–12 to Postsecondary Transitions
State K–12 and higher education leaders together must harness ESSA to build and scale programs proven to increase college readiness and success. These materials take a closer look at these opportunities, addressing the following questions:

  • How strategies such as dual credit and early college help speed up those students who are ready in high school?
  • How can we bring intervention strategies into high schools so that students who need more support can catch up before they graduate?
Leveraging ESSA to Increase College Readiness and Completion
This document is the first of a series designed to support K–12 and higher education partnerships on ESSA plans. This provides a roadmap for upcoming releases in which we will focus more in depth on several of the issues, outlined here:

  • Validation of standards and assessments,
  • Strategies to support student transitions,
  • Alignment of k–12 and higher education goals
  • Strengthening of educator preparation programs and professional development
Webinar Resources
Thanks to the over 150 leaders from CCSSO, NASH and SHEEO who were able to join us live! This webinar featured state K-12 chiefs and higher education executives from South Dakota and Tennessee who are making significant advances in working together across sectors to ensure all students are ready for college and careers.

To access the recorded webinar and slides, please click the ‘+’ sign below.

1/24/17: Moving the College Readiness and Success Needle: Strategies for K-12 and Higher Education Collaboration


Upcoming Resources
Additional resources in this series coming later this year will provide concise, targeted approaches in specific areas that states can incorporate into their plans to ensure the alignment of K–12 and postsecondary goals and expectations.


Additional Resources from Higher Ed for Higher Standards

Alignment Policy Brief
The Alignment Policy Brief Series is designed to elevate best practices and inform higher ed leaders of emerging collaborations with K-12.

Aligning Expectations
The Aligning Expectations toolkit helps higher education leaders get involved in states’ reviews of  standards and/or assessments.

Seizing the Moment
The Seizing the Moment report on community college alignment shows how collaboration with K–12  can better support students.

Proficient Means Prepared
The Proficient Means Prepared campaign offers more communication tools and templates, designed for a new assessment score release.