Leveraging ESSA: Aligning K-12 and Postsecondary Credential Attainment Goals to Support Success for All Students

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) presents a critical opportunity for state leaders to establish aligned K–12 and higher education goals to increase the number of youth who successfully attain a postsecondary credential of value. Getting more students prepared for higher education is a critical step toward meeting postsecondary completion goals and, ultimately, a state’s long-term economic needs. 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 from Higher Ed for Higher Standards — released in partnership with the Council of Chief State School Officers, the National Association of System Heads, and the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association — 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. This report is part of a series to support K-12 and higher education partnerships to increase college readiness and success through ESSA. 

The report provides the following action steps to bring together K-12 and postsecondary policymakers to support student success: 

  • Determine priority indicators for goals and targets
  • Back map from the state's postsecondary goal to set statewide goals for college and career readiness and student transitions into higher education
  • Use goals to direct targeted support for student transitions between K-12 and higher education
  • Establish and strengthen performance management processes in K-12 and higher education
  • Broadly communicate the alignment between K-12 and higher education sectors
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April 2017