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breaking through

The annual Fall Technical Institute is an opportunity for Breaking Through and Accelerating Opportunity state teams to receive targeted TA on a variety of topics. For this meeting, JFF recruited 18 subject matter experts from across the country to help state teams work through complex issues such as sustainability planning, employer engagement, and building comprehensive support services. Nine state teams attended this year's Institute.

Meeting Objectives 

  • Provide state teams with targeted technical assistance designed to strengthen solutions, advance the work, and meet outcomes through structured interactions with subject matter experts.
  • Enable teams to exchange effective practices and understand how other states or colleges are addressing key issues through peer sharing opportunities.
  • Ensure that teams leave the Institute with specific actions and plans to further their implementation and sustainability efforts.
Jobs for the Future

The Michigan Center for Student Success commissioned this study to determine whether strategies employed to improve adult students' success at 41 Breaking Through colleges nationwide have taken root at Michigan's original colleges and spread beyond them. A statewide survey revisited four of the colleges profiled in previous publications, and the research looked more closely at two additional colleges that have experimented with Breaking Through-type programs. 

In this research, some themes emerged to guide future state investments: 

  • The importance of scaling up from “boutique” programs to serve more students; 
  • The need to create clear pathways between noncredit workforce training and credit programs leading to Associate’s degrees in occupational disciplines; 
  • The significance of investment in upfront program features such as skill assessments and career guidance; and 
  • The role of workforce training programs in incubating student success strategies. 

Based on this research, the Center for Student Success has created a new initiative, Michigan Pathways to Credentials, to broaden the impact of Breaking Through strategies and support the development of career pathways across the state. Supported by a grant from the Kresge Foundation, six colleges will scale up their efforts to support adult students in obtaining credentials leading to family-sustaining careers.

Jennifer B. Schanker & Judith C. Taylor
Jobs for the Future

Over 200 people, including Accelerating Opportunity grantees and Breaking Through colleges, attended the first annual National Conference on Integrated Basic Skills Pathways. This website includes a number of materials developed for/shared at the meeting, including PowerPoint presentations and other resources.

Conference Objectives:

  • Introduce I-Best and Breaking Through models that integrate basic skills pathways.
  • Share I-BEST and Breaking Through models Washington SBCTC and other colleges have developed as core models for implementation.
  • Engage in provocative discussions around policy support and innovation to foster scale and sustainability.
  • Learn more about curricular alignment and other re-design aspects.
  • Build networks as 25 states come together as a field and learning community.
Jobs for the Future
Jobs for the Future

Breaking Through has engaged over 40 colleges across the country in redesigning programs to help low-skilled adults acquire the skills necessary to succeed in postsecondary education and attain credentials. In studies of colleges that scaled up successful pilot programs, Breaking Through participants demonstrated significantly higher rates of retention, course completion, and higher skill gains than non-Breaking Through students. These studies, produced with funding from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, are:

Breaking Through is a collaboration of JFF and the National Council for Workforce Education.

Elisabeth Barnett, Debra D. Bragg, Elaine Delott Baker, and Margaret Puryear

Community colleges must fundamentally changing the way they deliver Adult Basic Education instruction in order to help all students earn credentials that hold value in today’s economy. Achieving Ambitious Goals highlights what five Breaking Through colleges are doing to not only advance adults’ skills and career prospects but also to scale up successful programs across campuses and state systems.

Barbara Endel and Nate Anderson, with Jeremy Kelley
Jobs for the Future

Colleges participating in the Breaking Through initiative have found that incompatible data and data systems represent a significant barrier to creating pathways into college for adult students. This report provides insight into solutions that would be useful to any college seeking to serve low-skilled adults.

Peter Ewell
Jobs for the Future

This guide helps practitioners serve adults who have low literacy and math levels and who want to succeed in postsecondary education. The guide highlights innovations from community colleges that participated in Breaking Through between 2005 and 2009. The practice guide has four components, each devoted to a high-leverage strategy that community colleges and other programs can adopt to increase the success rates of their low-skilled younger and older adults: accelerated learning, comprehensive support services, labor market payoffs, and aligning programs for low-skilled adults.

Jobs for the Future
Jobs for the Future

This report, prepared for the Breaking Through initiative, offers state policymakers six policy recommendations to increase postsecondary attainment for low-skilled adults.

Amy-Ellen Duke and Julie Strawn
Jobs for the Future