In Brief University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign A Cross-CAse AnAlysis of CAreer PAthwAy ProgrAms thAt link low-skilled Adults to fAmily-sustAining wAge CAreersDebra D. Bragg, Christine D. Bremer, Marisa Castellano, Catherine Kirby, Ann Mavis, Donna Schaad, and Judith SundermanIn recent years, access to community colleges has stretched education (CTE) certificate and associate degree programs, and po-beyond its initial conception in the 960s when most commu- tentially with the baccalaureate degree. By conducting case studynity college students were traditional-age learners who sought research, we sought to provide a detailed description of localto transfer to a four-year college or pursue career preparation curricular, instructional and support programs, policies andto enter the workforce. Today, nearly half of the nation’s col- practices that seek to engage low-skilled adults in adult educa-lege students enroll in community colleges in which the student tion and literacy programs that are linked to postsecondary CTEbody is equally or more diverse than the communities in which and ultimately to family-sustaining wage employment.they reside, where the average age of students is over 25, wherestudents enroll in non-credit coursework and stop in and out Purposeroutinely, where the preponderance of students are unemployedor working in low-wage jobs, and where an ever-growing pro- The overarching research question for this study was: Whatportion of these students are immigrants and English language programs, policies, and practices, particularly curricular, insti-learners (ELLs). Recognizing these trends, scholars have argued tutional and support strategies, are currently being implementedthat community colleges should contribute to an equity agenda to support the transition of low-skilled adults through careerthat enhances educational and economic opportunity for low- pathways that align with postsecondary CTE? Several sub-skilled learners. Career pathways can serve as a primary means questions were posed to investigate implementation strategiesof meeting low-skilled learners’ needs by systematically linking and provide insights into sustainability. It is important to em-disparate education and training systems using the community phasize that this study was designed as a descriptive analysis.college as the nexus for partnerships and program delivery. The relative newness of career pathway programs targeting low-skilled adults, the charge from the study’s national advi-Little is known about educational programs referred to as career sory panel, and the relatively short timeframe allowed for datapathway programs that attempt to integrate adult literacy, adult collection did not support an outcomes evaluation. Even so,basic education (ABE), General Equivalency Diploma (GED) interesting and potentially promising practices are describedinstruction, English language literacy (ELL), and pre-collegiate in this report, providing a baseline for future policy and pro-developmental education with postsecondary career and technical gram development and outcomes evaluation studies. Director’s Note I am pleased to share the executive summary of a recently published technical report by the National Research Center for Career and Techni- cal Education titled A Cross-case Analysis of Career Pathway Programs that Link Low-skilled Adults to Family-Sustaining Wage Careers by Debra D. Bragg, Christine D. Bremer, Marisa Castellano, Catherine Kirby, Ann Mavis, Donna Schaad, and Judith Sunderman. The report features three career pathways dedicated to providing adult learners with the opportunity to engage in adult education and literacy and ad- vance to postsecondary career-technical education (CTE). Features common to the three pathways and lessons learned about implementa- tion, transferability and sustainability are discussed. The authors express their gratitude to the Office of Vocational and Adult Education, United States Department of Education for providing the financial support for this project, and to the members of a national advisory panel for their generous contribution of time and talent. (National advisory panelists are named in the report which is available at: http://occrl. ed.uiuc.edu/Projects/GED/Career_Pathways.pdf.) Debra D. Bragg
Methods learners (ELLs) who benefited from the integration of languageThe study design was multi-phased, beginning with a review of instruction into the adult literacy and CTE curricula. Throughliterature conducted by Park, Ernst, and Kim (forthcoming) and an urban partnership involving a community-based organiza-the convening of an advisory panel of experts from throughout tion (CBO) called Instituto del Progreso Latino (IPL), the Citythe United States. In the second phase of the study, the research Colleges of Chicago and other partner organizations, Latinoteam conducted telephone interviews with educational admin- students were identified to participate in career pathways inistrators at all levels, including state agency personnel knowl- the city of Chicago. The ELL population was also evident in theedgeable about state and local career pathway initiatives. The GST-Shoreline program that evolved through a pilot of Wash-third phase of the study involved data collection through site ington state’s Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training (I-visits to three career pathway programs that emerged during the BEST) program that emphasizes the integration of English as aprevious phase, with these three sites selected by the research second language (ESL) and adult basic education (ABE) withteam in collaboration with personnel employed by the United CTE instruction. Through a co-teaching arrangement, the I-States Office of Vocational and Adult Education (OVAE) and BEST approach emphasizes the integration of literacy educationthe national advisory panel. The three programs and sites are with workforce skills. Besides not being native-born speakers ofCarreras en Salud–Instituto del Progreso Latino (IPL), English, many adult learners in the three programs lacked a highChicago, Illinois; General Service Technician (GST)–Shore- school diploma and functioned at very low literacy levels. More-line Community College, Shoreline, Washington; and Ca- over, many students in the three programs were unemployed orreer Pathways Initiative (CPI)–Ouachita Technical College, employed in low-wage jobs, and some were TANF recipients,Ouachita, Arkansas. The final phase of the study focused on particularly the Ouachita Technical College students who weredata analysis and report writing, culminating in the production targeted for participation in an array of career pathway programsof a technical report and other dissemination activities. stimulated by Arkansas’ statewide Career Pathways Initiative (CPI).Results The organizational infrastructure and partnerships designatedResults show that the selected career pathway programs demon- to support each career pathway program were unique, thoughstrate a clear commitment to enrolling and serving low-skilled common features existed. All three programs drew upon theadults. Leadership support was evident at each site, with lo- resources of a local community college for some aspect of pro-cal leaders displaying a keen ability to leverage existing local gram administration and delivery, but the specific use of collegestrengths through internal relationships and external partner- facilities and administrative support varied with the involve-ships with employers, community-based organizations (CBOs), ment of external partners. Most notable of the three cases, inand others. By building on local strengths, the leaders exhibited the Carreras–IPL program, where the administrative leadershipsophistication in developing policy and program components was situated in a CBO, we observed commitment to the careeridentified by key stakeholder groups as instrumental to pro- pathway similar to the other two sites where community col-gram delivery. At one site, administrators were able to leverage leges were in the lead, but the added benefit of having the CBOtheir knowledge of curriculum contextualization and of exist- as a lead organization enabled it to capitalize on longstandinging partnerships in the manufacturing sector to create a health commitments to serve a particular student population, in thiscare pathway serving primarily Latino learners. At another site, case Latinos. The CBO’s long history and commitment to opena large, well-respected associate degree automotive program access; integrated ESL, adult literacy, and CTE curriculum; andaided by local industry and employer support was extended to wrap-around services was a particular strength of the Carreras–low-skilled adults. At the third site, a rapidly evolving technical IPL program.college was supported by the state’s career pathway initiativeto develop relationships with a comprehensive One-Stop Cen- The demographic and educational characteristics of adult stu-ter to develop multiple pathways for Temporary Assistance for dents participating in the three programs precipitated an arrayNeedy Families (TANF) recipients. In all three cases, the lo- of support services. All three offered students assistance withcal leadership had a deep knowledge of resources that could be financial aid, academic and career guidance, counseling servic-used to facilitate the development of career pathway programs, es, and job placement, but they also offered intensive supportand they mobilized those resources on behalf of low-skilled services directed at fulfilling the unique needs of their students.adult learners. These included case management, transportation and child care assistance, mental health services, addiction counseling, and inThough the characteristics of students targeted for the three at least one site, support for students with disabilities. In allprograms varied (e.g., ELL, TANF, unemployed, low-skill), three programs, a comprehensive portfolio of support servicessome characteristics were shared across the three programs. was described by local administrators as essential to students’For example, all three programs enrolled immigrants, particu- progressing through and being retained in the programs, andlarly Carreras en Salud–IPL and GST–Shoreline Community students themselves mentioned the support services as impor-College, and many of these immigrants were English language tant contributors to their persistence. 2
Common curricular and instructional features of the career path- Although quantitative results establishing a definitive relation-way programs included an initial entry point involving adult ship between small group activities and student outcomes areliteracy programs such as ABE and GED. All three programs not available, local program leaders and students were con-also offered ESL instruction, especially Carreras en Salud-IPL vinced that these activities encouraged persistence.and GST-Shoreline. A contextualized curriculum emphasizingoccupational content integrated with ESL, ABE, and develop- Each program operated with multiple external partners: em-mental/remedial education and a stackable, modularized cur- ployers, CBOs, chambers of commerce, state agencies, industryriculum provided students with multiple entry and exit options. groups, and others. Relationships with these partners were cen-Certificates and degrees were available at various exit points, tral to the sustainability of all three programs, though they var-depending on how the curriculum was aligned with the occu- ied substantially from one another. For example, the presencepational ladder. Besides these approaches, all three programs of external partners helped provide the cachet that is neededsupplemented the curriculum with some type and level of tech- to garner support for career pathways within community col-nology-enhanced curriculum including computer-aided design to leges, with employer and CBOs, and with the community atindividualize instruction and allow students to accelerate through large. The creation of these programs was not easy becausefoundational aspects of the curriculum, including some areas of the partners had to overcome entrenched organizational poli-developmental/remedial education (math in particular). Instruc- cies and operations, including space and scheduling concerns,tional innovations such as team teaching and project-based as- rigid curricular and assessment rules (particularly in the area ofsignments were evident in some classrooms in all three sites. college placement testing and developmental/remedial educa- tion), faculty contractual agreements (including concerns withConsistently, developmental/remedial education was viewed as differential pay scales for full- and part-time instructors), anda supplement to the career pathway programs because all three inflexible local and state-level curriculum approval processes.sought to emphasize adult education and literacy instruction to In one case, accreditation was viewed as a major impediment toreduce or eliminate developmental/remedial education so that growing career pathway programs because of the limitations itstudents could enroll directly in college-credit courses once placed on the ratio of certifications to associate degrees. Whilethey completed the adult literacy portion of the curriculum. community colleges offer advantages in terms of their central-Despite this intention, all three programs utilized the commu- ity to communities and strategic mission to serve local needs,nity college developmental/remedial curriculum when students their organizational structure and formal policy orientation (lo-were unable to matriculate directly from the adult literacy level cal and state) may mitigate implementation of the full array ofto postsecondary CTE. Because none of the programs focused on curriculum and support services needed for low-skilled adultsmajor modification to existing community college developmen- to be successful.tal/remedial education, administrators expressed concern aboutstudents who did not meet the college placement cut-off scores Conclusionsbecause of added cost and time and the resulting possibility of stu-dents’ using up student financial aid and accumulating debt, which Despite various challenges to their implementation, all threecould contribute to non-completion and economic hardship. career pathway programs showed signs of growth (scalability), continuation within the community college and larger local com-Finding a means of assisting low-skilled adults to persist in munity (sustainability), and replication (transferability) beyondpostsecondary education is a substantial challenge. Although their initial connections to particular CTE curriculums withinthe sites served similar but different low-skilled student popu- single institutions. The establishment of partners (internal andlations, the programs offered a number of similar strategies to external) contributed significantly to scalability and sustainabil-serve these students’ needs, including job readiness training, ity, providing a diversified means of funding the programs ineither as an initial stand-alone course or through integrating their original form and for growing them into new permuta-content into the career pathway curriculum. Either way, the in- tions. Replication often occurred first internally by transferringtention was to help students understand and value fundamental the models from one CTE area to another, then attempting toemployability and job readiness skills that would allow them replicate the ideas in other communities with other communityto be successful in the classroom and on the job. Drawing on colleges and partners. Transparency in the development of localtheir partnerships with local employers, each pathway program and state policies, procedures, and support materials was cru-heeded employers’ calls for such instruction and in some cases cial for the transfer of ideas from one site to another. Enhancingemployed their help in determining specific content offered in outcomes assessment was a goal of all three sites so that addi-the curriculum. In addition, the programs tended to offer flex- tional information could be shared internally and externally toible scheduling, including multiple entry and re-entry points, promote program replication.recognizing that adults have competing responsibilities for fam-ily, work, and school. Cohort groups, learning communities, and Despite these positive signs, local leaders continued to be chal-other groups were seen as a way of encouraging support among lenged in their efforts to weave together modest and disparatesmall groups of learners, most notably in the deliberate efforts of funding streams. The administrative rules associated with vari-the First Year Interest Groups (FYIGs) offered by CPI–Ouachita. ous funding sources – e.g., when and how dollars can be spent,
how they can and cannot be co-mingled – were cumbersome second-chance learners who have heretofore experienced limitedand sometimes also incomprehensible. Practitioners wondered success in postsecondary education. Though a great deal of infor-about the purpose of these rules and whether ultimately stu- mation is still missing on the effectiveness and benefits of ca-dents were helped or hindered by them, despite the programs’ reer pathway programs, a growing body of qualitative evidencededication to following the rules and their efforts to comply documents a sincere commitment by community colleges andwith guidelines in order to meet student needs. Bureaucratic other partners to serve low-skilled adults. Results of this studyhurdles that impede the implementation of career pathway reveal carefully constructed, articulated, and contextualizedprograms need careful study. Assuming that the needs of low- curricula; productive relationships with employers and partnerskilled adults are not going away and in fact are growing, the organizations; and comprehensive support services show prom-importance of finding ways to serve diverse low skilled, low ise for meeting the needs of low-skilled, low-wage learners.income adult populations becomes an increasingly important Through concerted efforts to implement career pathways, ac-endeavor. cess to postsecondary education and to family-sustaining wage careers may be within the reach of more adults. As these pro-Last, this study offers an important lens through which to observe grams evolve, additional rigorous research to assess programthe community college as a nexus for enhancing America’s equity and student outcomes needs to become a high priority.agenda and finding ways to enhance access and opportunity for
Key Features of Selected Career Pathway Programs FEATURES Processes / Organizational Program components / practices for Scalability, sustainability, and Students served Support services structures, Barriers and challenges curricular elements persistence and transferability college and partners completion Immigrant Latinos, Pre-college curriculum CBO partners and program Job readiness Leadership sited at CBO; Continual search for CBO aggressively seeks funding from primarily females, lacking a offered at the CBO, IPL; faculty provide services; infused into employer partners co- funding for support public sources, private foundations, high school diploma or contextualized ESL key administrators familiar curriculum; developed curriculum and services; entrenched and not-for-profit organizations;Carreras en Salud-IPL GED; low literacy, low curriculum focused on with population and needs; flexible coordinated placement; college operations and career pathway model transferred income associated with low- nursing; bilingual ESL offer case management, scheduling; established articulation faculty contractual from manufacturing to health care wage jobs or teachers; multiple entry academic and non- students can with AAS and BS agreements; lack of within the auspices of the CBO; unemployment; some are points; curriculum aligned academic counseling, stop out and re- programs; sustained alignment between pre- partnership between CBO and City younger adult Latinos within the industry; ABE a financial aid, child care enter pathway funding from foundations; college instruction and College strong, but lack of alignment native to the Chicago area. part of pathway; GED vouchers, transportation without state support for pilot college placement cut-offs. between CBO and system-level infused with technical assistance, tuition and repeating course year; beginning to gather community colleges may weaken content; computer-aided books, career counseling, work. data for formative potential for long-term sustainability instruction; team and and job placement. evaluations. and scalability; commitment to project-based assignments. research and evaluation encourages good practice. Primarily White males but Pre-college curriculum Community (workforce Job readiness Leadership sited at Finding partners to help Articulated goal to transfer ideas to 5 some immigrants from offered at Shoreline intermediary) agency, class required community college; well- provide support services; other sites, offering website, Latin America, English Community College; program director, and prior to entry; established employer recruitment hindered by curriculum materials, and teacher language learners, veterans, contextualized ESL and community college faculty flexible partners and college AAS area’s high employment guides; model already used by other out-of-school youth. ABE curriculum focused provide support services; scheduling. program; employer rate; space and scheduling Job Corps, community college, andGST-Shoreline on the automotive key administrators familiar partners assist with issues at college; high school sites; considering industry; team teaching; with students and their internship placement; state differentiated pay scales replicating ABE ESL integration in computer-aided needs; offer case support. between full- and part-time other occupational areas at SCC; instruction; team and management, child care faculty; slow curriculum expansion of the program and growth project-based assignments. and transportation approval process. in student enrollment is underway. assistance, mental health services, assistance with part-time jobs, career counseling. CPI-eligible students who Pre-college curriculum Services provided by Job readiness Leadership sited at Developmental courses not Statewide policy, infrastructure, and are adult caretakers, parents, offered at Ouachita college (case manager and class required; community college; well- connected to pathway; support for transferring models to or relatives of a child under Technical College; FYIG) and Workforce flexible coordinated services some lack of program other sites; common policy and the age of 9 who is multiple occupations Center partners. Key scheduling; between college and One- alignment (e.g., CNA to program structure being adopted deemed financially needy; targeted for career administrators familiar courses offered Stop partner; college LPN); students are hired throughout the state, beginning with former or current recipient pathways; segmented with students’ needs; case at sites actively reaches out to after completing one- and pilots; implementation acrossCPI-Ouachita of TEA cash assistance; (stackable) courses; self- managers assist students convenient to local employers to two-semester credentials; multiple careers/industries; research current recipient of food paced developmental with job placement. students; FYIGs. develop curriculum; state local workforce demand for integrated into the state project to stamps, ARKids, or math; ABE a part of academic and career support; state developing certificate programs but encourage effective policies and Medicaid, or earning 200% pathway; computer-aided counseling, financial aid, formative evaluation of college is nearing limit for practices; TANF funding brings of the FPL or less; majority instruction. transportation, child care, pathway sites. maintaining accreditation stability, yet state-level funding is are female low-wage support services for ratio for a community uncertain though the state has employees. students with disabilities. college. committed to finding support; tight- knit community and local leadership support may be difficult to transfer as implemented at this site.
About the Authors:Debra Bragg, (Ph.D., The Ohio State University) is the Director of the Office of Community College Research and Leadership (OCCRL)and a Professor of higher education at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) and served as Principal Investigator ofthis project.Christine D. Bremer (Ph.D., University of Minnesota) is a Research Associate at the University of Minnesota’s Institute on CommunityIntegration, a federally-designated University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities Education, Research, and Service(UCEDD). Her research interests include transition from education to employment and dropout preventionMarisa Castellano (Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley) is Visiting Associate Professor in the College of Education and HumanDevelopment at the University of Louisville. Her research interests span K-14, and include identifying strategies that can improve theeducational and life opportunities of minority students.Catherine Kirby, (Ed.M., UIUC) is the Assistant Director of OCCRL at UIUC. Her research and evaluation interests include issues re-lated to access and transition to the community college for the diverse populations of students served by these institutions.Ann Mavis, (MA, University of Minnesota) is a Project Coordinator at the University of Minnesota’s Institute on Community Integration(UCEDD) and a doctoral student in Educational Policy and Administration.Donna Schaad (Ed.D., UIUC) serves as Senior Consultant for the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE) Inter-net Course Exchange (ICE). She works with universities in western states to put the local systems in place to share courses and programsonline using a common database. Dr. Schaad also consults on evaluation projects for UIUC College of Education.Judith Sunderman, (MBA, Eastern Illinois University) is a doctoral student in higher education at UIUC. She served as a graduate re-search assistant on the Adult Career Pathway project at OCCRL during the 2006-07 academic year.The work reported herein was supported under the National Research Center for Career and Technical Education Program, PR/Award No.VO51A990006 administered bythe Office of Vocational and Adult Education, U.S. Department of Education. However, the contents do not necessarily represent the positions or policies of the Office ofVocational and Adult Education or the U.S. Department of Education, and you should not assume endorsement by the Federal Government.The Office of Community College Research and Leadership (OCCRL) was established in 1989 at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Our primary missionis to provide research, leadership, and service to community college leaders and assist in improving the quality of education in the Illinois community college system.Projects of this office are supported by the Illinois Community College Board (ICCB), and the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE), along with other state, federal,and private and not-for-profit organizations. The contents of our Briefs and bi-annual UPDATE newsletters do not necessarily represent the positions or policies of OCCRLor the University of Illinois. Comments or inquiries about our publications are welcome and should be directed to OCCRL@uiuc.edu. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign College of Education 51 Gerty Drive, CRC Room 129 . Champaign, IL 61820 217-244-9390 . Fax: 217-244-0851 Website: http://occrl.ed.uiuc.edu 6