The Breaking Through Practice Guide

The Breaking Through Practice Guide

Jobs for the Future and National Council for Workforce Education, 2010

Toolkit Purpose 

The purpose of The Breaking Through Practice Guide is to help practitioners better connect adults who have low literacy and math levels with a postsecondary occupational or technical education. It highlights innovations and practices that can be used to address and circumvent institutional barriers commonly encountered when serving low-skilled adults. The practice guide focuses on innovations and best practices from community colleges that participated in the Breaking Through initiative between 2005 and 2009, allowing all practitioners to share in the peer learning activities that Breaking Through has sponsored among the initiative's college and other nonprofit partners.

Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, North Carolina Glaxo-SmithKline Foundation, and Ford Foundation
Intended Audience 
Practitioners and staff at community colleges and other adult-serving institutions
Career Pathways Target Population 
Adults who have reading and math skills testing below the eighth-grade level
Based On 
The national Breaking Through initiative originated in research funded by the Mott Foundation in 2004, where researchers identified and documented strategies being utilized by colleges across the country to engage and support lower-skilled adults. During the demonstration phase from 2005 to 2008, 35 colleges across 18 States conducted demonstration projects based on these strategies. In the documentation and expansion phase from 2008 to 2009, the initiative worked with 41 colleges in 22 States to catalogue approaches used by different institutions.
Summary of Toolkit Approach 

The guide is organized around a framework of four "high-leverage" strategies to circumvent common institutional barriers and develop career and college pathways for students. These four strategies are:
- Accelerating the pace of learning so that students complete programs faster;
- Providing comprehensive supports that help students develop realistic plans and remain enrolled in and attending school, particularly through difficult transition points;
- Creating labor market payoffs by offering students intermediate credentials, jobs and other quick economic rewards; and
- Reorganizing community colleges to create clear pathways to college.
The guide is organized into four sections, based around the "high-leverage" strategies, and each describes practices implemented by Breaking Through colleges. It also includes a contextualization toolkit with additional information on how practitioners can contextualize their own curricula, as well as highlights on how colleges have scaled up successful approaches to each high-leverage strategy, and vignettes that illustrate how programs were created.

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