Gaining Momentum through Accelerated Pathways

Tuesday, December 19, 2023
Adam Lowe

As 2023 comes to a close, efforts to expand accelerated pathways for high school students are gaining momentum across the country and innovative partnerships are establishing clearer routes between education and high-quality jobs. High schools, colleges, and employers are strengthening collaborations to connect students to meaningful postsecondary credentials and career opportunities earlier in their academic journeys at low or no cost to them. Participating students have integrated work-based learning experiences and complete a sequenced set of college dual enrollment courses to put them on a fast-track to earning an associate degree in a high-demand career field.

To support the accelerated pathways movement across the country, Education Strategy Group has facilitated a range of key learning opportunities for members of the Accelerate ED community. In 2022 ESG worked with a dozen community-based teams to conduct needs assessments and draft blueprints for scaling accelerated pathways opportunities. This year, the initiative expanded to include eight new regional and state-wide efforts supported by ESG, as well as additional communities led by Education Design Labs and Arizona State University.

To be successful, accelerated pathways require commitment from stakeholders all along the K-12 through workforce continuum.  Intermediaries – such as college access networks, chambers of commerce, community colleges, community foundations, and others – play a significant role in fostering partnerships across high schools, colleges and universities, employers, and local youth-serving organizations.

Members of the Accelerate ED community address barriers to students’ participation in accelerated pathways with targeted recruitment and enrollment strategies. These strategies are intended to overcome historical inequities that have limited the number of students of color and from low-income families who benefit from these valuable pathways.

A number of Accelerate ED communities have demonstrated local success and are beginning to scale these programs, including:

  • Over the last two years, seven  Early College programs in Massachusetts serving high proportions of students of color and from low-income backgrounds have established Early College Promise. These Promise programs offer Early College students the opportunity to complete an additional year of college coursework after high school graduation at no cost.
  • An effort to diversify the workforce and meet the demands of the growing information technology sector in Illinois, launched initially in 19 high schools in three districts in the Chicago metropolitan area. This year, the initiative is expanding statewide to an additional 16 high schools in smaller communities served by a regional consortium and four additional school districts.
  • Expansion of the Free Degree Promise partnership, which offers all students in the Vermont high school classes of 2023-2026 the opportunity to earn a free associate degree through the state’s Early College program at the Community College of Vermont (CCV), supported by the McClure Foundation.

The Accelerate ED community includes a diverse set of teams developing a range of programs connected to multiple industry sectors.  They are driven by a shared desire to expand opportunity for students, and learn from and alongside one another through their participation in the initiative. Representatives from some teams that have recently joined Accelerate ED share their motivations below:

Stay tuned in 2024 for more stories and successes from across the Accelerate ED community.