An analysis of college and career readiness emphasis in ESSA state accountability plans




education reform, Every Student Succeeds Act, college and career readiness, accountability, equity


This study examined the extent and manner in which college and career readiness (CCR) is emphasized in Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) state accountability plans. We analyzed 52 plans (50 states, DC, Puerto Rico) using frameworks developed by Cook-Harvey, Darling-Hammond, Lam, Mercer, and Roc (2016) and Dowd and Bensimon (2015). Findings disclose significant variation, with CCR featuring prominently in some plans and receiving cursory mention in others. Most states identified CCR components as part of their school quality or student success indicators but few used ESSA to restructure their state initiatives to address persistent inequities. Even states making CCR a central feature typically applied color-blind approaches, addressing CCR for all students rather than developing CCR plans to address inequitable outcomes for student subgroups.


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Author Biographies

Donald G. Hackmann, Iowa State University

Donald G. Hackmann is the Frances S. and Arthur L. Wallace Professor and Director of the School of Education at Iowa State University and Professor Emeritus at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His research focuses on school leaders’ practices in support of college and career readiness, including career pathways, career academies, cross-sector collaboration, equity and data use, distributed leadership, and school improvement. A second research interest involves leadership preparation program quality and staffing, including characteristics of faculty, and mentoring of graduate students and novice faculty.

Joel R. Malin, Miami University

Joel R. Malin is an assistant professor of Educational Leadership at Miami University-Oxford, Ohio. Malin’s research focuses on research-practice-policy connections, and upon the leadership and organization of complex, cross-sector collaborations. His research in the latter area has primarily addressed college and career readiness reforms, occurring at the intersection of secondary and higher education. In the former area, his book The Role of Knowledge Brokers in Education (edited with Chris Brown), was published by Routledge in 2019.

Debra D. Bragg, University of Washington

Debra D. Bragg is director of Community College Research Initiatives at the University of Washington in Seattle and Edward William and Jane Marr Gutgsell Endowed Professor emerita and founding director of the Office of Community College Research and Leadership (OCCRL) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Dr. Bragg’s research focuses on P-20 transitions from K-12 education to community colleges and universities, as well as employment. She has led national studies on policy reforms associated with dual enrollment, college and career readiness, career pathways, career and technical education, high-performing transfer partnerships, and community college baccalaureates.




How to Cite

Hackmann, D. G., Malin, J. R., & Bragg, D. D. (2019). An analysis of college and career readiness emphasis in ESSA state accountability plans. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 27, 160.