October 25, 2017


The map above shows the extent to
which states incorporated the recommended
strategies into their plans. 

NEW RELEASE : Higher Ed for Higher Standards, in partnership with the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), National Association of System Heads (NASH), and State Higher Education Executive Officers Association (SHEEO) released, Shining a Spotlight on K-12 and Higher Education Alignment ,  the final brief in the Leveraging ESSA series based on a review of alignment strategies in state's ESSA plans.

Forty-eight states and the District of Columbia included at least one of the recommended K-12/ higher education alignment strategies included in Leveraging ESSA ꟷ validating college-ready standards and aligned assessments, vertically aligning K-12 and higher education goals, holding schools accountable for college and career preparation, and supporting student transitions into postsecondary ꟷ with 10 states demonstrating significant alignment by including three or more of the recommended strategies. These states can and should serve as a model for others seeking to build and expand activities to support student transitions from high school into postsecondary.

Free college is now a reality for millions more students across the country as states and communities have expanded "college promise" programs. To make the most of these programs, communities must focus on closing preparation gaps and supporting successful transitions into higher education. Matt Gandal, organizer of Higher Ed for Higher Standards and President of Education Strategy Group, addresses what states can do to ensure the long-term success of promise programs in his latest op-ed that appeared in U.S. News and World Report. 


Colorado state officials unveiled the Colorado Rises initiative last month, aiming to get 66 percent of Colorado's adults to hold a postsecondary degree or certificate by 2025, joining nearly 40 other states that have set postsecondary attainment goals. While nearly 55 percent of Coloradans already hold a postsecondary credential or degree, one of the highest rates in the country, the demand for more educated workers is even larger, with nearly 75 percent of jobs in Colorado requiring some education beyond high school by 2020. State higher education officials recognize that "colleges and universities must work closely with K-12 schools to align courses to ensure students are ready for post-secondary work." For more information on strategies for developing aligned K-12 and higher education goals to support all youth on their path to attain a postsecondary credential of value, check out our Leveraging ESSA brief .

Tennessee Promise students are morelikely to succeed and less likely to drop out than their peers not receiving Promise scholarships Fifty-six percent of Tennessee Promise students who entered college in 2015 had graduated, transferred to a four-year university or remained in school two years later, while just 39 percent of recent high school graduates not in the program had done the same. To further increase program success, the state plans to direct supports to students still enrolled and analyze data on major course loads and summer enrollment to identify barriers that hinder attainment. Despite these successes, enrollment gaps raise equity questions, as minority students were less likely than white students to participate in the program. In 2015, 71 percent of eligible white community college students enrolled in the program, compared to only 46 percent of eligible black students and 56 percent of eligible Hispanic students. Read more from the Tennessean, and for more information on Tennessee's effort to improve student success starting in K-12, check out our alignment brief on  TN SAILS.

In South Dakota, 11th grade students who score at Level 3 or 4 in English and math on Smarter Balanced assessments, or earn an ACT composite score of 18, are now guaranteed "general acceptance" to the state's six public universities and four technical institutes. Students who receive the letters of guaranteed general acceptance must submit an admission application, pay the fee, and send in their high school transcripts by Dec. 1 of their senior year. Their enrollment is contingent on graduating from high school, and students may have to meet additional requirements to pursue specific majors. Read more on aligned assessments and proactive admissions in South Dakota in  Edweek.


Getting Into College is Just the Start
Strada Education Network and Gallup released a report,  Major Influence: Where Students Get Valued Advice on What to Study in College, that illuminates the gap in access to information that students face when trying to make critical decisions about their pathways through college. The key findings are that the sources of information considered most reliable are too often the least accessible, especially to minority, low-income and first-generation students. Given the importance of decisions around college pathways and major, a new blog post from Matt Gandal explores the need to think outside the box when it comes to college and career counseling.

State Innovations for Near-Completers
A recent brief from Education Commission of the States outlines promising practices from three states - Indiana, Mississippi and Tennessee  - for re-engaging the 31 million adults in the United States who have some college credit but not a postsecondary credential, called "near-completers." Of the 16.4 million credentials needed by 2025 to meet workforce demands, more than one-third will likely be drawn from individuals with some college credit and no degree, offering a critical bridge to meeting state postsecondary attainment goals. States can maximize their attainment rates by both aligning the K-12 pipeline with higher education, and also working to re-engage near-completers who are close to the finish line.  

About Higher Ed for Higher Standards

Higher Ed for Higher Standards is a growing coalition of higher education leaders who believe aligned expectations and strong partnerships between K-12 and postsecondary leaders are critical to improving student success.  Join us!
Higher Ed for Higher Standards is an initiative of Education Strategy Group. For more information about our other work, please visit our  website .

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