Accelerating Opportunity

Redesigning Adult Basic Education for College Success

Improving Adult Basic Education to increase the number of adults who enter postsecondary education and earn credentials that lead to family-supporting careers.

Barbara Endel
Senior Director
617.728.4446 x235


The core belief of Accelerating Opportunity is that postsecondary credentials are the gateway to family-supporting wages—and that those credentials are critical to breaking the intergenerational transmission of poverty in America. This exciting initiative represents an unprecedented investment in low-skilled adult learners with a goal of yielding unprecedented results which transform the Adult Basic Education system.

Accelerating Opportunity builds on strategies developed through two groundbreaking initiatives: Washington State’s Integrating Basic Education and Skills Training (I-BEST), and Breaking Through,an initiative of JFF and the National Council for Workforce Education.

Through I-BEST programs, students earn college-level professional-technical credits that are part of career pathways. A basic-skills instructor and an instructor from a professional-technical program jointly teach in the same classroom. Rigorous evaluations show that I-BEST students are far more likely to earn college credits and credentials than their counterparts in regular ABE/GED/ESL programs.

States implementing Accelerating Opportunity undertake nine essential sets of activities:

  • Integrated pathways: Accelerating Opportunity builds pathways that form a transparent system of education and training. These pathways integrate basic skills education and career technical/occupational training for college credit, with clear connections between each program level and subsequent levels of employment.
  • Scale and sustainability: Topromote expansion, states and colleges break down silos separating departments within colleges, strengthen partnerships internally and with community-based organizations and public agencies, and build out integrated pathways across the state.
  • Culture shift: Accelerating Opportunity promotes major attitudinal and operational shifts in policy and practice, resulting in culture changes at both the state and college levels that bring ABE students into the core of the community college mission and activities.
  • Comprehensive student supports: Underprepared students receive access to integrated or embedded student support services, making them significantly more likely to persist in their education.
  • Stakeholder engagement: Strong relationships with a wide range of stakeholders improve the diversity of students engaged, strengthen alignment with various workforce development systems, help achieve policy change, add resources to the initiative, and stretch its reach.
  • Professional development: The faculty and staff providing Accelerating Opportunity courses and services benefit from a consistent and coherent set of professional development opportunities, rather than discrete, episodic events that may not add yield systems and culture change.
  • State technical assistance to colleges: The state provides strong assistance on such issues as staff capacity, system leadership, and monitoring progress.
  • Policy: Each state identifies high-impact policies to accelerate, support, scale up, and sustain programmatic redesign.
  • Leadership and staff commitment: State and college leaders make Accelerating Opportunity a priority and deploy adequate resources to ensure the successful implementation of key actions and strategies.