Implementation of Accelerating Opportunity: Final Implementation Findings with Lessons from the Field shares lessons learned in Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, and Louisiana during the first three years of implementation from 2011 to 2014 of Accelerating Opportunity (AO). AO is an initiative that encourages states to improve educational and employment opportunities for low-skilled adults through promoting integrated college and career pathways; improving coordination among government, colleges, and businesses; and removing policy barriers.

Major Findings & Recommendations

The report finds that “… students enrolled in AO pathway programs earned 56,757 credits and 11,283 credentials, 78 percent of the 14,400 credentials initially targeted for the three-year AO initiative (3,600 credentials per state) .... In addition to supporting acquisition of credits and credentials, the AO initiative helped students connect to the labor market” (p.vi).

The paper highlights lessons for state policymakers and colleges who may be particularly interested in developing integrated career pathways “given the recent passage of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act of 2014 (WIOA) and current state efforts to plan for its implementation” (p.2). The lessons include:
“State Policy Can Support Student Success [:] AO state teams recognized that formal policies were critical for ensuring that adults with low basic skills and adult education students could enroll in and complete postsecondary coursework successfully. Therefore, state teams engaged multiple stakeholders to build policy support for AO” (p. viii).

“College Internal Partnerships Are Fundamental but Time Intensive [:] Internal college partnerships among various departments…proved critical for AO success. These partnerships supported the co-enrollment of adult education students in college courses, increased the type and amount of instructional resources available, and facilitated students’ transition to employment” (p. x).

“Individualized Supports Are Helpful for Student Success, but Difficult to Sustain in the Long Term [:] Comprehensive support services—academic, career, and personal—are integral to the AO model. Common support services included tutoring or other academic support, career planning, college navigation support, job search assistance and job placement, and case management. Staff and students expressed that the individualized attention that AO staff gave to their students was the most important factor in student success…. College leadership, however, worried about their ability to scale and sustain individualized support services, given the costs, and have explored new funding sources that can be tapped for this purpose” (p. xi).