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Breaking Through

Breaking Through is 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. Since 2005, the Breaking Through Initiative (BT) has pioneered and demonstrated that by focusing on four (4) key strategies, community colleges across the country are able to move academically underprepared adults into postsecondary occupational and technical career programs. Through this project, NCWE and its partner, Jobs for the Future (JFF), have undertaken a set of activities designed to strengthen the knowledge base about strategies and outcomes of community colleges implementing Breaking Through pathways, deepen peer learning activities among participating colleges, and build momentum and lay the groundwork to position Breaking Through for significant expansion.

Breaking Through Key Initiatives
The goal of Breaking Through is 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 are 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.

Building the Foundation for Success: Case Studies of
Breaking Through Tribal Colleges and Universities

Tribal Colleges Breaking Through, a partnership of Jobs for the Future, the National Council for Workforce Education, and the American Indian Higher Education Consortium, was an eighteen-month initiative focused on piloting workforce and education strategies to better serve low-skilled students at tribal colleges and universities. Six institutions participated—Comanche Nation College, Leech Lake Tribal College, Little Big Horn College, Northwest Indian College, Salish Kootenai College, and Sitting Bull College—with each establishing two or more cohorts of GED or workforce students and incorporating the four Breaking Through core strategies. As a result of experimenting with the implementation of Breaking Through in a tribal college context, this study highlights a number of key themes that emerged during the initiative.

Deborah His Horse is Thunder, Nate Anderson, and Darlene G. Miller
AIHEC, JFF and NCWE (2013)

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.

Jobs for the Future (2011)
Barbara Endel, Nate Anderson, and Jeremy Kelley


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