The COABE Journal - Integrated Career Pathways: Lessons from Accelerating Opportunity

COABE has published a Journal for more than 40 years. As a member of COABE, we invite you to access our special Career Pathways edition which features articles by the very best researchers, practitioners, and leaders in the field of adult education.


Rachel Pleasants McDonnell, Associate Director, is engaged in research, documentation, and technical assistance focused on policies and practices that improve postsecondary outcomes for underserved populations. She also develops and coordinates in-person and virtual technical assistance opportunities including webinars, tools, and online resources. She co-manages Accelerating CTE, an initiative to redesign career and technical education programs to substantially increase the number of students able to succeed in their career pathways, earn a credential, and enter the workplace with competitive skills. She also supports evaluation efforts for the Student Success Center Network and provides strategic consultation to states within the Network. Previously, Ms. McDonnell co-managed Accelerating Opportunity, JFF’s national initiative to integrate adult basic education with Career and Technical Education in seven states.


Dr. Lisa SoriconeEdD is Associate Research Director at JFF. Her work focuses on research and evaluation of programs and policies that help low-skilled and underprepared adults succeed in career pathways and postsecondary education. She helped evaluate the success of programs that help adults succeed in community college, including the Adult Degree Completion Project and an evaluation of bridge-to-college programs for adult immigrants in Boston. Dr. Soricone was the evaluation liaison for Accelerating Opportunity. Dr. Soricone is coauthor of a study of English as a second language service in Boston, and multiple publications related to adult learning, including a study of adult learner persistence, a case study of the adult education system in Massachusetts, a literature review on programs that integrate adult basic education with occupational training, and a publication on program conditions suitable for conducting research in adult education.

The article, "Integrated Career Pathways: Lessons from Accelerating Opportunity," was written by Rachel Pleasants McDonnell and Dr. Lisa Soricone. The article outlines the implementation of the Accelerating Opportunity initiative, which spanned four years and seven states. As the article shows, the initiative was an unprecedented investment in underprepared adult learners and explores lessons learned which can help practitioners, researchers, and policymakers continue to improve outcomes for underprepared and underserved adults. 

“Accelerating Opportunity was developed as a strategy for helping more underprepared adult learners enter and succeed in postsecondary credit-bearing career pathways. While postsecondary credentials are increasingly important for obtaining family-supporting careers, more than sixty percent of adults 18 and older lack any postsecondary credential. In addition, weak literacy and numeracy skills keep millions of adults from succeeding in today’s labor market. Historically, disconnected systems—including adult education, secondary education, community colleges, and workforce development—have made it difficult for underprepared adult learners to advance through education and training programs in a reasonable time frame. Very few Adult Basic Education students (by some estimates, less than 5%) ever enroll in college-level pathways, much less graduate with marketable credentials.”