Thinking Big: A Framework for States on Scaling Up Community College Innovation

This resource covers a wide variety of issues that arise in the scaling-up process, from defining the problem to financing and sustaining successful initiatives.

Rose Asera
Rachel Pleasants McDonnell
Lisa Soricone
Nate Anderson
Barbara Endel
Author(s) Organizational Affiliation
Jobs for the Future
Publication Year
Resource Type
Key Words
Number of Pages

Jobs for the Future mined the extensive research literature on scale and sustainability in order to create this report around the challenges of scaling up programs into broadly applied soclutions that improve the prospects of large numbers of individuals. The emerging framework is tested against efforts designed to spread, across entire state community college systems, evidence-based innovations that improve outcomes for students. We looked in depth at efforts in Arkansas, Oregon, Virginia, and Washington state (see box, “Four Examples of Scaling Up Community College Reform” on page viii) and interviewed key policy and practice entrepreneurs, college and system leaders, and experienced evaluators of community college initiatives, in Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, New York, and Texas.

Based on the literature and the states’ experiences, the report provides a definition of scaling up and of the conditions for its success and sustainability. We have identified distinct phases of scaling up, from initial planning to institutionalization and sustaining. Our goal is that the framework offered here helps innovators be deliberate and strategic from the outset, increasing the odds of successful expansion, impact, and sustainability.

What the experts say

The focus of the publication is scaling up statewide and the shared elements of success and lessons learned certainly appear valuable and useful for adult education state administrators and policymakers embarking on the scaling process. That said, the publication examines the process of scaling up in the context of expanding community college reform, which includes at least one specified model that includes adult education (I-BEST)/ Therefore, the examination of scale in educational innovation, arc of innovation movements, and lessons learned appears to be applicable to smaller scale programming and practices.

Considering the new emphasis on integrated education and training and focus on greater alignment and strengthening of WIOA partners’ collaboration (e.g. through career pathways development), the publication provides several applications to adult education, including several, varied examples of scaling up initiatives which may be used for further analysis.

Also helpful is the arc of innovation (Planning, Initiating, Expanding, Sustaining) and walk-throughs of each element of the “arc” with valuable input from current and former community college leaders (see the 5 S’s shared by Dr. Keith Bird, former chancellor of the Kentucky Community and Technical College System).

Of particular use are the following elements of the report:

  • Examples of scaling up by states (page 7)
  • Scaling graphic (page 10)
  • Pull out: How governance and systems structures affect scaling (page 12-13)
  • Summaries at each section (page 32)
  • Arkansas model (page 48)
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