A Breaking Through Initiative
Accelerating Opportunity focuses on jobs, the economy, and improving opportunities for adults. This four-year initiative aims to drive economic recovery for individuals and communities by substantially increasing the number of adults who earn the credentials and skills they need to get and succeed in family-sustaining jobs.
A National Necessity
Millions of adults need access to postsecondary education and training to advance their careers and support their families. The numbers are staggering:
- Over 26 million adults lack a high school degree.
- 93 million lack the basic literacy skills necessary to succeed and advance in college and the workplace.
- 1.3 million young people drop out of high school every year.
Accelerating Opportunity supports states across the country in efforts to ensure that more workers have the skills they need for today’s good jobs. Through innovative adult education that leads to valuable credentials, this multistate initiative seeks to:
- Fundamentally change the way Adult Basic Education (ABE) is structured and delivered at state and institutional levels; and
- Promote state and institution policies to dramatically increase the number of individuals who complete credentials of value in the labor market.
Building on What Works
Accelerating Opportunity builds on strategies developed through two groundbreaking initiatives: Breaking Through, an initiative of JFF and the National Council for Workforce Education, and Washington State’s Integrating Basic Education and Skills Training (I-BEST). The evidence from these efforts makes a compelling case for a large-scale expansion of Accelerating Opportunity pathways.
I-BEST challenges traditional notions that students must complete all levels of Adult Basic Education before they can advance in workforce education training programs. 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. In this collaborative model, they develop plans to achieve integrated program outcomes, jointly plan curricula, and jointly assess students’ learning and skill development. 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.
Why Breaking Through?
Breaking Through helps community colleges redesign programs to help low-skilled adults acquire the skills necessary to succeed in postsecondary education and attain credentials. This national initiative promotes four high-leverage strategies to develop college and career pathways for students to advance their studies or enter family-supporting careers: accelerated learning; comprehensive support services; labor market payoffs; and aligning programs for low-skilled adults.
Breaking Through has engaged over 40 colleges across the country over the past four years. In studies of colleges that scaled-up successful pilot programs, Breaking Through participants demonstrated significantly higher rates of retention and higher skill gains than non-Breaking Through students.
In late 2011, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, and North Carolina received implementation grants of $1.6 million. Since then, the initiative has added Georgia, Louisiana, and Mississippi. During the three-year implementation phase, these states will:
- Develop and scale up integrated college and career pathway designs that result in more ABE students completing credentials valued in the labor market; and
- Promote state and institution policies that support the implementation and scale-up of these designs.
In each state, the higher education agency governs adult education. Those agencies lead design teams of key stakeholders, including representatives of the governor’s office, state workforce development agencies, state data agencies, leading community colleges, and employers or employer associations in industry sectors with strong labor demand and career advancement potential.
These seven states have also joined the national Breaking Through peer-learning network of states and colleges committed to helping lower-skilled adults succeed in postsecondary education.
Partners and Funders
Accelerating Opportunity is managed by JFF, in partnership with the Washington State Board of Community and Technical Colleges, the National Council for Workforce Education, and the National College Transition Network.
An unprecedented philanthropic investment in ABE, Accelerating Opportunity is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, The Joyce Foundation, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the Kresge Foundation, and the Open Society Foundations.
For more information, contact:
Barbara Endel at JFF, email@example.com, 859.640.4296