Rachel Pleasants McDonnell, Lisa Soricone, and Monique Sheen developed this publication to support colleges and other institutions that are searching for strategies to better provide comprehensive supports to students. The goal of this paper is to provide clarity on what it means to provide comprehensive support services, share what research says about effective practice, and provide some examples of cost-effective strategies that colleges are using to provide this high level of support.
Accelerating Opportunity seeks to change the way Adult Basic Education is delivered by connecting crucial pieces of the puzzle that are preventing lower-skilled adults from entering and completing postsecondary education. By aligning and accelerating ABE, GED, and developmental programs and providing nontraditional students the supports they need, Accelerating Opportunity career pathway programs enable more low-income adults to complete postsecondary credentials that are of value in the labor market.
Nationwide, we must increase the number of adults who have enough education and skills to enroll in postsecondary training and complete a credential leading to a family-supporting career. Earning such a credential is one of the most effective ways to climb out of poverty, yet 93 million adults (over half of the U.S. workforce, age 18-64), lack the basic literacy and math skills needed to enter credit-bearing college courses.
The numbers for whom these credentials seem unattainable represent not only personal and financial losses for those adults, but also lost potential for our nation. Although Adult Basic Education is the first step on the path to better skills, credentials, and careers, only a fraction of lower-skilled adults ever enrolls in ABE programs. Moreover, few of the adults who do enroll in ABE ever enter credit-bearing courses, and even fewer—as low as 3 percent—earn any kind of postsecondary credential. Among the challenges facing ABE systems are inadequate instructional models, few student supports, limited labor market payoffs, and disconnected programs; ABE, job training, noncredit, and credit courses rarely align in a way that enables students to proceed quickly to a credential.
Accelerating Opportunity helps our nation’s lowest-skilled adults earn higher-wage jobs faster by combining the Adult Basic Education and career and technical training they need into one integrated curriculum.
The initiative helps these adults advance along clear pathways that start where they left off in high school or a GED program, continue through a local community college, and toward postsecondary credentials in high-demand occupational areas.
How Accelerating Opportunity Works
This four-year, multistate effort provides embedded support services to help students persist to completion while delivering consistent and coherent professional development to Accelerating Opportunity faculty and staff.
These supports were developed by two other adult education initiatives:
- Breaking Through, which focused on contextualizing basic skills instruction so students could see how to apply it in their work and daily lives; and
- Washington State’s Integrated Basic Skills and Training (I-BEST) program, which pairs a basic-skills instructor and an instructor from a professional-technical program to teach together in the same classroom.
Accelerating Opportunity programs are achieving success in 55 colleges in 7 states.
- 153 career pathway curricula implemented
- 3,644 total enrollments
- 5,216 total credentials earned
- 1,354 students earning 12+ credits
- 37% of enrolling students earning 12+ credits
- 730 job placements