New CCRS Center Brief: Understanding Accelerated Learning Across Secondary and Postsecondary Education

This month the College and Career Readiness and Success Center (CCRS Center) released a brief titled Understanding Accelerated Learning Across Secondary and Postsecondary Education. Prepared by the American Youth Policy Forum (AYPF), the brief catalogs and articulates accelerated learning options across and within secondary and postsecondary education. Broadly defined, accelerated learning options encompass changes to the traditional time frame in which students are able to accumulate credits. Accelerated learning serves as a promising tool for policymakers to increase educational opportunities for students and has the potential to level the playing field for advanced, traditional and nontraditional students, as well as those requiring remediation. In cataloguing efforts made between and across secondary and postsecondary education, the brief provides a series of definitions within the framework of acceleration and a variety of effective program and policy examples.

While accelerated learning options originally targeted high achievers, recent efforts have focused on the engagement of middle- and low-achieving students to increase academic momentum. Today, accelerated programs attract advanced learners as well as student populations traditionally underserved by accelerated learning opportunities. As a result, both secondary and postsecondary education institutions now provide a diverse range of acceleration options.  Similar variety in accelerated programs also serves as alignment tools between these systems.  The brief organizes options for accelerated learning into the following categories:   

  • Acceleration Solely at the Secondary Education Level. At the secondary level, credit recovery and double dosing are prevalent forms of acceleration for students academically at risk. When combined with other student supports, double-dosing programs positively correlate to increases in average course credit accumulation and successful transitions from ninth grade to tenth grade.
  • Acceleration Across Secondary and Postsecondary Education. Across secondary and postsecondary systems, acceleration options provide high school students with opportunities to obtain college credits. Programs offering this form of acceleration include: concurrent enrollment, dual enrollment, school-based models, advanced coursework, and tech prep. In addition to granting academic credits at both levels, these models often strengthen non-cognitive skills related to college success – such as note taking, time management, and familiarity with postsecondary systems.
  • Acceleration Solely at the Postsecondary Level. At the postsecondary level, acceleration programs target remedial students currently enrolled in the postsecondary institution. Evaluations of specific models reveal strong evidence to support postsecondary accelerated remediation as a successful means to move students quickly through developmental courses.

Kathryn Balestreri is a Research Assistant with the CCRS Center.

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