Absence of conflict of interest.
Anderson, T., Kuehn, D., Eyster, L., Barnow, B., & Lerman, R. I. (2017). New evidence on integrated career pathways: Final impact report for Accelerating Opportunity. Washington, D.C.: Urban Institute.
- The study’s objective was to examine the impact of the Accelerating Opportunity (AO) program on education, earnings, and employment outcomes in four states. This summary contains the findings from Louisiana.
- The authors used a nonexperimental design to compare education, earnings, and employment outcomes of AO participants to a matched comparison group.
- The study found AO participants were significantly more likely to earn a credential and earn more credentials than the comparison group. AO participants also had a significantly higher short-term employment rate and earning gains compared to the comparison group. However, AO participants earned significantly fewer college credits than the comparison group.
- The quality of causal evidence presented in this study is moderate because it was based on a well-implemented nonexperimental design. This means we are somewhat confident that the estimated effects are attributable to the Accelerating Opportunity program, but other factors might also have contributed.
Accelerating Opportunity (AO) program
Features of the Intervention
The Accelerating Opportunity (AO) program was developed to provide adults without a high school diploma or equivalency the pathway to enroll in career-training in community colleges. The program’s goal was to develop or revise programming to focus on career pathways. These pathways included sequenced courses and training that allowed students to earn credentials in highly needed fields. The total duration of the program was 12 credits and was designed to be completed in one year or less. The program also included team teaching by basic skills and Career and Technical Education (CTE) instructors; student support; accelerated learning; connections to the labor market; and contextualized instruction.
Features of the Study
The study used a nonexperimental design to compare the outcomes of students who participated in the AO program to students who did not participate. The authors matched AO participants to similar nonparticipants using propensity scores developed from baseline demographic and outcome information. Study participants included 440 students in the treatment group and 3,015 in the comparison group. Using data from the Louisiana adult education program data system, college data system, and the unemployment insurance earnings records, the authors conducted statistical models to examine differences in outcomes. The outcomes included number of credits earned, earning more than 12 credits, earning a credential, number of credentials earned, and employment and earnings in the 12 quarters following enrollment.
Education and skills gain
- The study found that AO participation significantly reduced the number of credits earned by 3.6 credits, which is 25% less than students in the comparison group. Moreover, AO students were significantly less likely to earn more than 12 credits than students in the comparison group (12.2 percentage points).
- The study found that credential attainment was significantly higher for AO students (23.4%) than students in the comparison group (3.2%), and AO students significantly earned .8 more credentials than students in the comparison group.
Earnings and wages
- The study found that AO participants’ quarterly earnings were significantly higher than those in the comparison group across quarters 1-6, and were significantly lower in quarters 7-12.
- The study found that AO participants’ employment rates were significantly higher than those in the comparison group for quarters 1-6 and 11, and were significantly lower in quarters 8 and 9.
Considerations for Interpreting the Findings
The study found that participation in AO significantly reduced the number of credits earned. The authors note that this reduction might be due to the accelerated coursework in the program.
Causal Evidence Rating
The quality of causal evidence presented in this study is moderate because it was based on a well-implemented nonexperimental design. This means we are somewhat confident that the estimated effects are attributable to the Accelerating Opportunity program in Louisiana, but other factors might also have contributed.