“Launched in 2011, the Accelerating Opportunity (AO) initiative aims to help students who have low basic skills to earn valued occupational credentials, obtain well-paying jobs, and sustain rewarding careers. The model focuses on students who score between the 6th- and 12th-grade level in basic skill areas but who are interested in earning technical credentials. In particular, AO is designed for adult education students who lack high school diplomas or the equivalent. AO encourages states to change the delivery of adult education for these students by allowing community and technical colleges to enroll them in for-credit career and technical education (CTE) courses at the same time as they earn their high school credentials, improve their basic academic skills, or build their English language abilities” (p.vi).
This report includes data from 41 colleges across five states – Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, and North Carolina – although the number of schools and states participating in the AO initiative shifted within the first two years. “These 41 colleges reported enrolling 5,244 students across both years, with a 21 percent increase in enrollment from the first year to the second. The colleges also were able to expand their pathway offerings, increasing from 89 unique pathways in the first year to 120 in the second year.… A[t] of the end of the second year of implementation, colleges had awarded 6,248 credentials and 35,514 credits to AO students. Employers hired 1,629 students (almost a third of those served), and 84 percent of students were hired into jobs related to their AO training” (p.vi).
“As a part of a rigorous evaluation of the AO initiative, this report documents and assesses the first two years of the AO initiative in the four states active in both years. This period covers the spring 2012 to fall 2013 semesters in Illinois, Kansas, and Kentucky, and the fall 2012 to summer 2014 semesters in Louisiana. The data presented in this report come from a survey of all AO colleges, site visits to the participating states, program documentation, and quarterly calls with AO states and colleges” (p.vii).
As the second implementation report for this initiative, and in conjunction with a complementary report that discusses survey results among AO participants, this study provides “lessons for other states and colleges considering the AO model” (p.vii).(Abstractor: Author and Website Staff)
Major Findings & Recommendations
“The findings in this report focus on the development of the initiative in the second year and on changes from the first year of implementation. For consistency in these comparisons, the detailed findings are limited to the 34 colleges that participated in AO across both years” (p.vii). • “Integrated Instruction and Team Teaching Methods Continued to Vary, but AO Instructional Pairs Grew More Adept at Implementation” (p.viii). • “Navigators Were a Key Support Service for AO Students” (p.ix). • “Many Colleges Recruited Individuals with High School Diplomas or GEDs, Partly in Response to Eligibility Conditions on Federal Student Financial Aid” (p.x). • “States and Colleges Sought New Sources of Financial Support for Students Lacking a Diploma or GED” (p.x). • “Colleges Struggled to Recruit Adult Education Students” (p.xi). • “Colleges Further Developed Internal Partnerships” (p.xi). • “Colleges Developed and Expanded Partnerships with Employers” (p.xi). • “Colleges Served More Students with Fewer Resources” (p.xii). • “Three States Changed State Funding Policies to Support and Sustain AO” (p.xii). • “All Four States Are Strategically Planning to Sustain AO after Grant Funding Ends” (p.xiii). “During the second year of the initiative, states and colleges focused on building upon their first-year efforts. They used the opportunity to reflect on and make strategic decisions about how the AO model matches the needs of their students, their individual institutions, and their local labor markets. The two-year goals in the AO theory of change (see appendix A) guide this analysis of progress throughout the two years of the AO. While states are planning to sustain the initiative, uncertainty remains around how the model will look, whom it will serve, and how it will be financed and sustained after the grant ends” (p.xiv). (Abstractor: Author)