Provides findings from an implementation study of the Accelerating Opportunity Initiative (AO), drawn from responses to a survey of 444 students that measures the characteristics, perceptions, and program experiences of AO students.

“In 2011, Accelerating Opportunity (AO) was launched to increase the capabilities of adults with low basic skills so they qualify for well-paying jobs and rewarding careers. AO focuses on accelerating access to community college occupational credentials among students with low academic skills who otherwise would languish in adult basic education or development education courses and who often fail to complete, or even enroll in, degree and certificate programs.

….. The AO model includes the following key features:

  • for-credit career pathways in which students can earn valued occupational credentials, which articulate to longer-term credit and degree programs and respond to employer demand;
  • contextualized and integrated learning, delivered through a team-teaching model where a career and technical education (CTE) instructor and a basic skills instructor work together in the same classroom; and
  • enhanced support services, such as career coaching and assistance with child care and transportation, to help students navigate college and the complexity of their personal lives, while also preparing for entry into the world of work. (p.1-2)

“This report is based on the responses of 444 students to a survey of all students currently participating in the AO evaluation in Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, and Louisiana. The student survey was designed to provide information on students and their experiences in the program to supplement information collected through administrative data, site visits, site conference calls, and the first- and second-year college surveys. The goals of the survey were as follows:

1. to better understand the students enrolled in AO, including their pre-program experiences, work history, and family composition;

2. to understand the services received by AO students, including the amount/intensity of services received, with a goal of looking at the relationship between program experiences and student outcomes; and

 3. to get AO students’ perspectives on the program, their motivations for joining the program, and information on whether the program is meeting their expectations and needs” (p.3).

(Abstractor: Author)

Full publication title: Accelerating Opportunity: A Portrait of Students and Their Program Experiences from the 2014 Student Survey

Major Findings & Recommendations

“Highlights from the 2014 Accelerating Opportunity Student Survey • Students expressed high levels of satisfaction with the program. Almost 90 percent of students felt the program prepared them adequately or very well for work in their field of training or for further education. Close to half of students said the program exceeded their expectations, and an additional 47 percent said the program met their expectations. • Accelerating Opportunity (AO) served nontraditional students. Nearly two-thirds of survey respondents were age 25 or older. More than half of survey respondents had dependent children, and almost a quarter were single parents. In addition, more than half of respondents were working while enrolled in AO, mostly in low-paying jobs for more than 30 hours a week. Finally, almost half of survey respondents were receiving government assistance aside from student financial aid, such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits. • Despite the initial focus on serving individuals who lacked high school credentials, most survey respondents had a high school degree or its equivalent. Nearly 90 percent of students surveyed had obtained a high school credential. Although this may have been because of changes in Pell policy that limited receipt to those with such credentials, only 35 percent reported receiving Pell grant assistance for AO. • Students reported that their classes focused more on job-related skills than on basic skills. About 64 percent of students reported spending time on content related to building knowledge and skills for a job, compared with 52 percent who said coursework included instruction to improve their reading, writing, and/or math skills. …. Less than half of the respondents received tutoring. Students widely expressed the desire for more team teaching and tutoring. • Although most students reported receiving financial or nonfinancial support while in the program, a majority had to pay for some part of the program, and counseling focused on academic and employment issues. Almost three-quarters of respondents received some type of advising from staff members, primarily related to academic issues and job issues….Sixty-eight percent of students surveyed had to pay for some part of the program, such as uniforms, books, tuition, or other fees’ (p. IV). (Abstractor: Author)