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Breaking Through

The Breaking Through Initiative focused on the development, refinement, and scale up of professional and technical pathways serving large number of low-income adults who enter community college underprepared for credit-level work. From 2005-2012, NCWE partnered with Jobs for the Future to support Breaking Through (BT) pioneering and demonstrating that by focusing on four (4) key strategies, community colleges across the country were able to move academically underprepared adults into postsecondary occupational and technical career programs.

As design, leadership and technical assistance partners, JFF and NCWE designed and delivered a set of activities to strengthen the knowledge base about strategies and outcomes of community colleges implementing BT pathways, deepen peer learning activities among participating colleges, and built momentum and lay the groundwork to position Breaking Through to achieve scale.


NCWE Technical Assistance Team
Darlene G. Miller, Ed.D.
Nan Poppe, Ed.D.


Breaking Through Key Initiatives
The goal of Breaking Through was to strengthen postsecondary outcomes for low-income, academically underprepared adults by focusing on strategies that create more effective pathways through pre-college and degree-level programs. Four (4) key strategies were employed to ensure student success:

» Program Realignment

» Accelerated Learning

» Comprehensive Support Services

» Strong Labor Market Payoffs



Breaking Through Practice Guide


The Breaking Through Practice Guide, developed by JFF, helps practitioners serve adults who have low literacy and math levels and who want to succeed in postsecondary education. The Practice Guide highlights innovations from community colleges that participating in the Breaking Through initiative 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 their success with low-skilled younger and older adults.



Achieving Ambitious Goals: Case Studies of Scale-Up
Programs for Advancing Low-Skilled Adults


As Breaking Through proceeded, Jobs for the Future and the National Council for Workforce Education recognized that a small number of community colleges within the initiative had many program elements in place to effectively advance low-skilled adults toward credentials. In 2009, five community colleges received $40,000 grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to scale up their Breaking Through programs. JFF prepared the case studies in this report for practitioners, policymakers, foundation staff members, and others interested in strategies to advance low-skilled adults to increasingly higher levels of learning.

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