Breaking Through: Helping Low-Skilled Adults Enter and Succeed in College and Careers

This study, funded by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation can be used by community college administrators, practitioners in adult education, workforce development and occupational and technical credit programs as a guide to creating and maintaining strategies that create pathways for low-skilled adults to obtain certificates and degrees.
Resource URL:
Author(s): 
Marty Liebowitz
Judith Combes Taylor
Author(s) Organizational Affiliation: 
Jobs for the Future
National Council for Workforce Education
Published: 
2004
Number of Pages: 
31
Abstract: 

This study, funded by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation can be used by community college administrators, practitioners in adult education, workforce development and occupational and technical credit programs as a guide to creating and maintaining strategies that create pathways for low-skilled adults to obtain certificates and degrees. The report is based on a literature review, site visits, interviews with practitioners and researchers, national conference sessions, and a convening of practitioners who discussed their programs and research findings. The result is four strategies for career pathways so low-skilled adults can successfully pursue postsecondary credentials. These four innovative strategies are discussed at length in this report; integrated institutional structures and services, accelerated learning, labor market payoffs, and comprehensive supports. The two populations of low-skilled adults most likely to benefit from the four strategies are adults with sixth- to eighth-grade levels to help them move quickly to complete high school, develop pre-college skills and benefit from developmental education and adults with eighth-to tenth-grade pre-college skills would benefit by helping them develop college level skills and enter credit programs. The study examines programs using these four innovative strategies and highlights changes made to the programs to make it possible for low-skilled adults to be successful.

What the Experts Say: 

Breaking Through: Helping Low-Skilled Adults Enter and Succeed in College and Careers describes the findings from research on innovative practices in adult education and workforce development. The report is easily readable and suggests numerous strategies for improving the ability of community colleges to deliver adult and workforce education. Four of the strategies leading to promising results are: integrating adult basic education; workforce development and degree programs to provide seamless advancement; provide accelerated learning opportunities so adults have to spend less time reviewing skills they already know; understanding the labor market and linking programs to meaningful economic payoffs; and provide comprehensive support. Include up to two citations of the research undergirding the resource listed by the experts.

Some of the more significant features of the paper include data on the economic impact of GED obtainment and the breakdown of who is actually getting a GED in the United States.  Only 30% of GED recipients come through the adult education system and 40% are 19 and younger. There are great examples of how community colleges have collaborated with adult education to provide dual enrollment and step- up programs into development and credit courses. Throughout the report, the promising practices emphasize the need to develop a system that provides a continuum of services that serve as stepping stones for low- skilled students to transition to the next level rather than isolated stand alone programs.

Implications for practitioners with ideas for implementation are provided in a companion resource entitled The Breaking Through Practice Guide which is reviewed separately.

Chrisman & Crandall (2007). Passing the Torch: Strategies for Innovation in Community College ESL http:caalusa.org/eslpassingtorch226.pdf  (although this resource does not directly treat ESL)

Sticht, T. (2003). Functional Context Education (FCE) Part 1: New Interest in FCE Theory and Principles for Integrating Basic Skills and Work Skillshttp://library.nald.ca/research/item/4440

Methods the resource used to collect and analyze the data for the research:
  • Literature review,
  • case studies,
  • interviews,
  • observations.
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