Competitive Grants for State Assessments

Under Title I, Part A, of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), as amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), a primary indicator of student academic achievement, and the primary measure of State success in meeting the goals of ESEA, is proficiency on State assessments. Section 1201 of ESEA, as amended by ESSA, provides formula grants to all state education agencies (SEAs), and section 1203 authorizes the Secretary of Education to make competitive grant awards to SEAs, to help States enhance the quality of their assessment and accountability systems.

The U.S. Department of Education (USED) issued a notice on January 28, 2019, inviting applications for the fiscal year 2019 Competitive Grants for State Assessments (CGSA) program. The purpose of the CGSA program is to enhance the quality of assessment instruments and assessment systems used by States for measuring the academic achievement of elementary and secondary school students. CGSA replaces a similar program, the Enhanced Assessment Grants (EAG) program, which was authorized by ESEA, as amended by the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). Grants under CGSA can be used to support States piloting innovative assessment systems under the Innovative Assessment Demonstrative Authority.

Interested SEAs or consortia of SEAs have the option of notifying the Department of their intention to apply by submitting the Notice of Intent to Apply by February 27, 2019. The deadline for applications is March 29, 2019, at 4:30pm Eastern time, and the deadline for Intergovernmental Review (if applicable) is May 28, 2019.

This Center on Standards and Assessment Implementation (CSAI) Spotlight includes an overview of the CGSA, the absolute and invitational priorities, the application, and the selection criteria.

Information is current as of March 28, 2019.

CGSA Priorities

The CGSA competition includes six absolute priorities and two invitational priorities.


Absolute Priorities

Under 34 CFR 75.105(c)(3), USED considers only applications that meet one or more of these absolute priorities.

An eligible applicant awarded a grant under CGSA must propose activities that fit one or more of the following absolute priorities. Eligible applicants must specify which absolute priority or priorities they are applying under.

  1. Developing or improving assessments for English learners, including assessments of English language proficiency as required under ESEA section 1111(b)(2)(G) and academic assessments in languages other than English to meet the State’s obligations under ESEA section 1111(b)(2)(F).
  1. Developing or improving models to measure and assess student progress or student growth on State assessments under ESEA section 1111(b)(2) and other assessments not required under ESEA section 1111(b)(2).
  1. Developing or improving assessments for children with disabilities, including alternate assessments aligned to alternate academic achievement standards for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities described in ESEA section 1111(b)(2)(D), and using the principles of universal design for learning.
  1. Allowing for collaboration with institutions of higher education, other research institutions, or other organizations to improve the quality, validity, and reliability of State academic assessments beyond the requirements for such assessments described in ESEA section 1111(b)(2).
  1. Measuring student academic achievement using multiple measures of student academic achievement from multiple sources.
  1. Evaluating student academic achievement through the development of comprehensive academic assessment instruments (such as performance and technology-based academic assessments, computer-adaptive assessments, projects, or extended performance task assessments) that emphasize the mastery of standards and aligned competencies in a competency-based education model.

Invitational Priorities

Under 34 CFR 75.105(c)(1), USED is particularly interested in applications that meets the invitational priority. However, there is no preference on an application that meets the priority over other applications.

The following invitational priorities are from the Secretary’s Final Supplemental Priorities and Definitions for Discretionary Grant Programs, published in the Federal Register on March 2, 2018 (83 FR 9096).

  1. Promoting Literacy. Projects that are designed to address facilitating the accurate and timely use of data by educators to improve reading instruction and make informed decisions about how to help children or students build literacy skills while protecting student and family privacy.
  1. Promoting Science, Technology, Engineering, or Math (STEM) Education, With a Particular Focus on Computer Science. Projects designed to improve student achievement or other educational outcomes in one or more of the following areas: science, technology, engineering, math, or computer science.


CGSA Application

The Department expects to award a total of $17,622,000 for new grants under this competition, and will award discretionary grants on a competitive basis for a project period of up to 48 months. The Department expects to award grants in August 2019.

SEAs, as defined in section 8101(49) of ESEA, of the 50 States, the District of Columbia, and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and consortia of such SEAs, are eligible to apply for grants under CGSA. An application from a consortium of SEAs must designate one SEA as the fiscal agent.


Notice of Intent to Apply

Applicants may submit notification of intent to apply by email to, with ‘‘Intent to Apply’’ in the email subject line. The notification should be brief and should identify the SEA or consortium applicant. For consortia applicants, the notification should also include the SEA designated as the fiscal agent for an award. Applicants that do not provide this notification may still apply for funding.


2019 Competitive Grants for State Assessment Application Package (Word) (PDF)


Further information about the CGSA program is available at the program website. Applicants with questions about the program after reviewing the application package can email Donald Peasley at or Denise M. Joseph at


Applicants should submit their application here via



Application Checklist

Part 1: Preliminary Documents


Part 2: Budget Information


Part 3: ED Abstract Form

  • This section should be attached as a single document to the ED Abstract Form in accordance with the instructions found on and should include all parts of the project abstract and be organized in the following manner in order to expedite the review process.
  • Project Abstract: The project abstract should not exceed two double-spaced pages and should include a concise description of the following information:
    • Project objectives and activities
    • Applicable priorities
    • Proposed project outcomes
    • Number of participants to be served
    • Number and location of proposed sites 


Part 4: Project Narrative Attachment Form

  • This section should be attached as a single document to the Project Narrative Attachment Form in accordance with the instructions found on and should include all parts of the application narrative and be organized in the following manner in order to expedite the review process.
  • Application Narrative: The application narrative should respond to the selection criteria and should follow the order of the selection criteria.
    • The table of contents should not exceed one double-spaced page.
    • The application narrative should include a strong evaluation plan, which should be used, as appropriate, to shape the development of the project from the beginning of the grant period. The plan should include benchmarks to monitor progress toward specific project objectives, as well as outcome measures to assess project impacts on teaching and learning or other important outcomes for project participants.


Part 5: Budget Narrative Attachment Form

  • This section should be attached as a single document to the Budget Narrative Attachment Form in accordance with the instructions found on It should include all parts of the budget narrative and be organized in the following manner in order to expedite the review process.
  • Budget Narrative: Each application must include a budget narrative (to meet the requirements of ED Form 524, Section C) for requested federal funds, and must provide a justification of how the money requested for each budget item will be spent.
    • The narrative should include an itemized budget breakdown for each project year and the basis for estimating the costs, for up to 48 months, of personnel salaries; benefits; project staff travel; materials and supplies; consultants and subcontracts; indirect costs; and any other projected expenditures.


Part 6: Other Attachments Form

  • Attach one or more documents to the Other Attachments Form in accordance with the instructions found on Applicants may provide all of the required information in a single document, or in multiple documents.
  • Individual résumés for project directors and key personnel (applicants are encouraged to limit each provided résumé to no more than five pages)
  • Executive Order 12372 Transmittal Letter — attach a copy of the Single Point of Contact Transmittal Letter, if applicable
  • Indirect Cost Rate Agreement
  • Memorandum of Understanding or other binding agreement, if applicable
  • References/bibliography for the project narrative, if applicable


Part 7: Assurances and Certifications


Part 8: Intergovernmental Review (Executive Order 12372) (if applicable)


CGSA Selection Criteria

The Department will award up to 100 points to an application, using the following selection criteria (from 34 CFR 75.210):


(a) Need for project (up to 10 points)

  • The extent to which specific gaps or weaknesses in services, infrastructure, or opportunities have been identified and will be addressed by the proposed project, including the nature and magnitude of those gaps or weaknesses.


(b) Significance (up to 10 points)

  • The extent to which the proposed project is likely to build local capacity to provide, improve, or expand services that address the needs of the target population.


(c) Quality of the project design (up to 20 points)

  • The following factors will be considered (5 points each):
  1. The extent to which the goals, objectives, and outcomes to be achieved by the proposed project are clearly specified and measurable.
  1. The extent to which the proposed project will establish linkages with other appropriate agencies and organizations providing services to the target population.
  1. The extent to which the proposed project is part of a comprehensive effort to improve teaching and learning and to support rigorous academic standards for students.
  1. The extent to which the proposed project demonstrates a rationale.
    • Demonstrates a rationale – a key project component included in the project’s logic model is informed by research or evaluation findings that suggest the project component is likely to improve relevant outcomes.


(d) Quality of project services (up to 25 points)

  • The quality and sufficiency of strategies for ensuring equal access and treatment for eligible project participants who are members of groups that have traditionally been underrepresented based on race, color, national origin, gender, age, or disability. (10 points)
  • In addition:
  1. The extent to which the services to be provided by the proposed project are appropriate to the needs of the intended recipients or beneficiaries of those services. (10 points)
  1. The extent to which the training or professional development services to be provided by the proposed project are of sufficient quality, intensity, and duration to lead to improvements in practice among the recipients of those services. (5 points)


(e) Adequacy of resources (up to 10 points)

  • The extent to which the costs are reasonable in relation to the number of persons to be served and to the anticipated results and benefits.


(f) Quality of the management plan (up to 15 points)

  • The adequacy of the management plan to achieve the objectives of the proposed project on time and within budget, including clearly defined responsibilities, timelines, and milestones for accomplishing project tasks. (5 points)
  • The extent to which the time commitments of the project director, the principal investigator, and other key project personnel are appropriate and adequate to meet the objectives of the proposed project. (10 points)

(g) Quality of the project evaluation (up to 10 points)

  • The extent to which the methods of evaluation will provide performance feedback and permit periodic assessment of progress toward achieving intended outcomes.
  • More specifically, the plan should identify the individual and/or organization that have agreed to serve as evaluator for the project and describe the qualifications of that evaluator.
  • The plan should describe the evaluation design, indicating:
  1. what types of data will be collected;
  1. when various types of data will be collected;
  1. what methods for collecting data will be used;
  1. what data collection instruments will be developed and when;
  1. how the data will be analyzed;
  1. when reports of results and outcomes will be available; and
  1. how the applicant will use the information collected through the evaluation to monitor progress of the funded project and to provide accountability information, both about success at the initial site and about effective strategies for replication of successes in other settings.

Applicants are encouraged to devote an appropriate level of resources to project evaluation.