Understanding Accelerated Learning

On November 25, the College and Career Readiness and Success Center (CCRS Center) and the American Youth Policy Forum (AYPF) co-hosted a Webinar entitled “Understanding Accelerated Learning Across Secondary and Postsecondary Education.” This webinar discussed the recent CCRS Center issue brief, and featured both a description of the categories of accelerated learning developed in the brief and presentations from profiled programs.

Speakers included Joe Harris, Director of the CCRS Center, Jennifer Brown Lerner, Senior Director at AYPF; Thomas Acampora, Field Manager at the Center for Social Organization of Schools at Johns Hopkins University; Melinda Mechur Karp, Senior Research Associate at the Community College Research Center, Teachers College, Columbia University; and Louisa Erickson, Program Administrator, Basic Skills at the Washington State Board for Technical and Community College.

Jennifer Brown Lerner opened the Webinar by providing an overview of the CCRS Center brief which broadly defines accelerated learning as opportunities which encompass changes to traditional time frames that seek to address the needs of all students and which affords students the ability to move through secondary and postsecondary education at an individualized pace. Brown Lerner then discussed the three primary categories that common acceleration opportunities fall into:

  • Acceleration solely at the secondary education level, including credit recovery and double dosing;
  • Acceleration across secondary and postsecondary education, including concurrent enrollment, dual enrollment, advanced coursework, school-based models, and tech prep; and
  • Acceleration solely at the postsecondary education level, including accelerated remediation and accelerated pathways.

Each of the subsequent speakers provided a perspective and example of acceleration opportunities in each of the categories.

First, Thomas Acampora provided an overview of Talent Development Secondary, a school reform strategy which combines engaging instruction with solid organization and student, teacher and administrative support to struggling students, primarily focusing on grades six and nine. The Talent Development program utilizes varied acceleration strategies at the secondary level such as credit recovery and double dosing to ensure students are able to use time differently to stay on track to graduation.

The Talent Development program is rooted in the “Four Pillars of Transformation,” which include:

  • Teacher Teams and Small Learning Communities
  • Specialized Curriculum and Coaching
  • Tiered Student Supports
  • Can-Do Climate for Students and Staff

Acampora also described instructional support and school capacities necessary to create acceleration opportunities for students including professional development, flexible scheduling, and the role standards play in defining the content students must master to demonstrate proficiency.

Providing a general overview of the research on acceleration across secondary and postsecondary education, Melinda Mechur Karp discussed the promise of dual enrollment opportunities, which allow students to earn college credit while in high school. Dual enrollment both addresses the transitions within the education pipeline where students often fall off track, and creates academic momentum that can propel students towards degree completion. Research has shown that dual enrollment participants benefit from their experience in a number of ways, including the acquisition of study skills, increased high school graduation, greater likelihood of college enrollment, improved college grade point averages, and greater likelihood of degree completion for all students. While dual enrollment opportunities vary along a range of features, effective dual enrollment implementation stresses authenticity of a college course experience, and a supportive environment for students.

Louisa Erickson concluded the webinar with an overview of the Washington State Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training Program (I-BEST), one of the programs profiled under the acceleration solely in postsecondary category. The I-BEST model is designed to increase students’ literacy and work skills through accelerated coursework in order to increase student attainment of credentials and work skills. I-BEST pairs two instructors across Washington’s community and technical colleges – one to teach professional and technical content and the other to teach basic skills in reading, math, writing or English language – so that basic education students can move through school and into jobs more rapidly. As students progress through the program, they learn basic skills in real-world scenarios offered by the job-training, and are provided wraparound services to support this progress. Through I-BEST, students experience a range of positive outcomes; participating students maintained a retention rate of 75 percent, 55 percent increased at least two levels in math, 74 percent increased at least two levels in English, and on average, students accumulated 42 college credits.

For a full audio recording and webinar slide deck, please click the link here.

Austin Pate is a research/policy assistant at the American Youth Policy Forum.

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