Accelerating Opportunity Models

Improving outcomes for large numbers of low-skilled adult learners requires changes to both policy and practice, particularly to encourage the development of scalable program models. A critical component of Accelerating Opportunity is the implementation of evidence-based instructional and programmatic models that promote transition to and completion of credentialing programs in high-demand fields.

These evidence-based models include, but are not limited to, the Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training (I-BEST) model, “I-BEST-like” designs, and models developed through the Breaking Through initiative.

To guide states and colleges in developing and implementing Accelerating Opportunity models, Jobs for the Future and its partners and funders have established a set of essential program elements. These draw on both the I-BEST model and the best practices developed by Breaking Through colleges since 2005. These elements are essential for any pathway that aims to help significant numbers of students increase their basic skills and move into and through credentialing programs. We have also developed an "Ideal Model" that illustrates how the set of essential elements might be built into a complete pathway.

The Accelerating Opportunity Essential Elements

These eight elements are essential to every Accelerating Opportunity pathway:

  • Explicit articulation of two or more educational pathways, linked to career pathways, that begin with Adult Basic Education or ESL and continue to a one-year, college-level certificate and beyond;
  • Evidence of strong local demand for the selected pathways, including the presence on the Workforce Investment Board demand list for the local area or other local data demonstrating robust demand;
  • Acceleration strategies, including contextualized learning and the use of hybrid (online and classroom-based) course designs;
  • Evidence-based dual enrollment strategies, including paired courses and I-BEST and I-BEST-like approaches;
  • Comprehensive academic and social student supports (e.g., tutoring, child care, transportation, access to public benefits, subsidized jobs);
  • Achievement of marketable, stackable, credit-bearing certificates and degrees and college readiness, with an explicit goal of bypassing developmental education;
  • Award of some college-level professional-technical credits, which must be transcripted the quarter or semester in which they are earned; and
  • Partnerships with Workforce Investment Boards and/or employers.

The "Ideal" Accelerating Opportunity Model

This “ideal model” diagram was designed to illustrate how the Accelerating Opportunity essential elements can be incorporated into a career pathway.

This sample pathway starts in ABE (or ESL), contains an embedded introductory certificate (CNA) and is explicitly connected to further education and training in the healthcare field. All technical/occupational coursework, including during phase 1, is credit-bearing.

In this pathway, phase 1 is an integrated model that combines basic skills with technical training leading to an introductory credential, based on the I-BEST approach. Instruction in all phases, and especially the first phase, will include accelerated options

This pathway includes the CNA as an initial credential as well as options for earning additional stacking credentials to increase students’ labor market options.

The model also includes various options for skill building to bypass developmental education, and also includes an accelerated/contextualized developmental education option for those who do need additional academic support.

The "Ideal" Accelerating Opportunity Pathway



The Breaking Through Model

Breaking Through helps community colleges redesign programs to enable low-skilled adults to acquire the skills necessary to succeed in postsecondary education and attain credentials. The 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. Change delivery methods and content through the innovative use of assessment tools, restructured curricula, targeted instruction, contextualization, and other strategies so that students can meet their goals faster.
  • COMPREHENSIVE SUPPORT SERVICES. Make academic, economic, and social support services easily accessible to students whose life challenges put them at risk of not completing their education.
  • LABOR MARKET PAYOFFS. Restructure both precollege and college-level instruction to connect course content with the workplace and to connect students with actual employers and workplaces.
  • ALIGNING PROGRAMS FOR LOW-SKILLED ADULTS. Reorganize college programs and link them with external programs to provide students with a better understanding of how they can move into and through college, and to provide clear pathways that enable them to do so.
Examples of Breaking Through programs:

Lake Michigan College


Owensboro Community and Technical College


Pamlico Community College
North Carolina


Durham Technical Community College
North Carolina


Tacoma Community College


The Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training (I-BEST) Model

I-BEST challenges traditional notions that students must first complete all levels of Adult Basic Education before they can advance in workforce education training programs. I-BEST moves students further and faster to certificate and degree completion. All I-BEST programs must meet the following criteria:

  • I-BEST programs must include college-level professional-technical credits that are required of all students in the selected program and are part of a career pathway.
  • All students must qualify for federally supported levels of basic skills education.
  • Students must be pre-tested using CASAS (the standardized test used statewide to assess ABE and ESL students).
  • An instructor from basic skills and an instructor from the professional-technical program must jointly instruct in the same classroom with at least a 50 percent overlap of the instructional time.
  • Faculty must develop integrated program outcomes, jointly plan curriculum, and jointly assess student learning and skill development.
  • I-BEST programs must appear on the demand list for the local area and meet a minimum set wage.
Examples of I-BEST pathways:

Bellingham Technical College
Electrical Foundations


Clover Park Technical College
Architectural CAD Drafting


Everett Community College
Sustainable Office


Lower Columbia College
Early Childhood Education


North Seattle Community College
IT for Healthcare


Accelerating Opportunity Pathway Models

During the design phase each state developed a diagram to illustrate its integrated pathway model. These diagrams included entry and exit points, target populations, target credentials, labor market opportunities, and support services. The purpose of the diagrams is to illustrate the integrated instructional model as well as the stackable credentials that make up the career pathway. The majority of states developed both generic models as a template for colleges as well as pathway-specific models that included credentials, jobs, and wages. Many implementation states are simplifying these diagrams so they can be used to guide entering students.


Examples of Accelerating Opportunity pathways:

Illinois [PDF]


Kansas [PDF]


Kentucky [PDF]


Louisiana [PDF]


North Carolina [PDF]


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louisiana_accelerating_opportunity_model_diagram.pdf 59.64 KB