Accelerate Texas Makes Strides in Adult Education

November 2013 | Houston, Texas
BY: Amy Williams

Accelerate Texas (ATX) is now entering its fourth year of providing adult learners basic skills classes along with career and technical pathways, reaching more than 3,000 students in the state of Texas across the first 14 funded colleges. With the growth of the program from Spring 2013, there are currently 13 community colleges and 8 college districts statewide that are participating in the program. Accelerate Texas is funded by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) with programmatic technical assistance supported by Jobs for the Future (JFF) and the evaluation conducted by The Public Policy Research Institution (PPRI) at Texas A&M.

The program is led by four guiding principles that have contributed to its immense success.

  1. Supporting Adult Basic Education Innovation
  2. Building College Capacity for Results
  3. Demonstrating Impact
  4. Informing Policy

As part of the THECB’s commitment to the effective transition and success of adult education students into postsecondary education through the Adult Basic Education Innovation Grants (ABE-IG) these programs aim to reach educationally disadvantaged adult learners, who are under- or unemployed, many of whom lack a GED and/or basic skills needed in the workforce. ATX streamlines the ABE programs in their colleges and in partnership communities, so that adult learners receive contextualized basic education, GED preparation and English as a Second Language, as needed, along with technical training — students come out ready to begin work in their prospective fields or postsecondary education.

“Among the first 14 colleges, where over 3,000 students have enrolled in integrated basic skills workforce training programs, more than 1,900 students have completed a workforce training certificate with value in their regional labor market,” explained THECB Senior Program Director of Developmental & Adult Education Dr. Linda Muñoz.

THECB contracted with JFF in 2011 to provide the ATX colleges with technical assistance and program development, while also offering institutional and statewide policy support. 

“We were selected to work with the Coordinating Board to provide capacity building assistance to the college grantees, so we’ve been coaching the grants individually,” explained JFF Program Director Gloria Mwase. “We are working to identify what policies need to be addressed at state and institution levels so that we can support and sustain this work.”

Accelerate Texas is dedicated to demonstrating impact that will contribute to Texas’s Closing the Gap by 2015 goal. PPRI supports ATX by investigating the progress being made to increase credit attainment, employment and postsecondary education of ATX students. PPRI also is charged with evaluating the implementation strategies that are being used.

To make these programs financially sustainable, JFF facilitates ATX partnerships with federally funded adult education and literacy programs and local workforce developmental boards to support the colleges in building their integrated pathways. Part of the overall vision of the ATX integrated basic education workforce education programs is to build effective transition programs, while providing sustainability and growth of these effective models in all colleges. JFF assists with policy reviews and aids the THECB with policy recommendations, so that the barrier between success and lower-skilled adult learners is continually lessened. To date, there has been much success in sustainability efforts.

“We’ve been able to move positions of grant funds into institutional funds,” said Amarillo College Dean of Academic Success Tamara Clunis. “We’ve also used ATX to gain other grant funding that is helping us braid funding so that we can sustain and expand.”

Accelerate Texas continues to be funded as a result of the success the program has experience in Texas colleges. In summer 2013, THECB approved funding to support five mentor colleges as a means of providing additional guidance and effective practice sharing among ATX program colleges.

Accelerate Texas program colleges will be holding the annual Accelerate Texas Week, which will give colleges an opportunity to share information, resources and the progress they have made with their communities. Event details will be provided by JFF. Stay tuned to the TXCCRN Newsroom for a detailed recap of what the mentor colleges are doing statewide!