ICAPS History

In 2011, Illinois became one of 11 states to receive funding for the Design Phase of the Accelerating Opportunity: A Breaking Through Initiative. The Accelerating Opportunity initiative is designed to fundamentally change the way Adult Basic Education is delivered, moving from a system focusing on attainment of the GED or equivalency to one that transitions students to post-secondary education credentialed programs. The Initiative is based upon the belief that post-secondary credentials are the gateway to family supporting wages.

In September 2012 Illinois was announced as one of only five states (Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, and North Carolina) to receive $l.6 million from Jobs for the Future to implement the Accelerating Opportunity Initiative. This community college initiative is funded through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Joyce Foundation, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the Kresge Foundation, and the Open Society Foundations in partnership with the National Council on Workforce Education, the National College Transition Network at World Education, and the Washington State Board for Community & Technical Colleges.

The Integrated Career and Academic Preparation System (ICAPS) is Illinois implementation of the Accelerating Opportunity model put forth by Jobs For the Future., ICAPS fosters a partnership between Adult Education and Career & Technical Education by integrating both technical training and basic skills education into the educational experience, delivering education in a team taught environment, and culminating in educational functioning level gains and industry recognized credentials.

The AO Model was designed after the Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training (I-BEST) Program in Washington State and promotes integrated instruction delivered by Adult Basic Education and Career/Technical Education faculty through Team Teaching. The AO model includes several essential elements.

The Accelerating Opportunity Essential elements are:

  • Explicit articulation of two or more educational pathways, linked to career pathways, that begin with Adult Basic Education or ESL and continue to a one-year, college-level certificate and beyond
  • Evidence of strong local demand for the selected pathways, including the presence on the Workforce Investment Board demand list for the local area or other local data demonstrating robust demand
  • Acceleration strategies, including contextualized learning and the use of hybrid (online and classroom-based) course designs
  • Evidence-based dual enrollment strategies, including paired courses and I-BEST and I-BEST –like approaches
  • Comprehensive academic and social student supports (e.g., tutoring, child care, transportation, access to public benefits, subsidized jobs)
  • Achievement of marketable, stackable, credit-bearing certificates and degrees and college readiness, with an explicit goal of bypassing developmental education
  • Award of some college-level professional-technical credits, which must be transcripted the quarter or semester in which they are earned
  • Partnerships with Workforce Investment Boards and/or employers

The AO Model was developed around 9 core ideas:

  • Building Integrated Pathways
  • Scale & Sustainability
  • Culture Shift
  • Comprehensive Student Supports
  • Stakeholder Engagement
  • Professional Development
  • State Technical Assistance to Colleges
  • Policy
  • Leadership & Staff Commitment

For more information on the ICAPS, essential elements, core ideas, and program requirements see the Illinois Community College Board’s ICAPS manual available here.


During the Design and Implementation phases, Illinois selected and funded (with AO support) 8 community colleges to participate in ICAPS. These original 8 colleges piloted and paved the way for marketing, implementing, and expanding AO and its innovative approach to changing the delivery of adult education and career and technical education. Based on the successes of the first 8 colleges Illinois has added 17 additional colleges through 3 cohorts of ICCB’s Transitions Academy; in total Illinois now hosts 25 colleges with ICAPS programs.

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