Building Bridges to Postsecondary Training for Low-Skill Adults: Outcomes of Washington State's I-BEST Program
Each year, community colleges, schools, and community organizations offer basic skills instruction to more than 2.5 million adults with limited skills and education. Such programs include Adult Basic Education (ABE) and GED preparation programs for individuals who do not have a high school credential and English-as-a-Second-Language (ESL) programs for persons with limited proficiency in English. Yet few of these students advance successfully to college-level education and training, even when they attend a basic skills program offered by a community college. Not doing so limits the potential of these individuals to secure jobs that pay family-supporting wages and that offer opportunities for career advancement. Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training, or I-BEST, is an innovative program created to address this problem. First piloted in 2004-05, I-BEST was developed by the community and technical colleges in Washington State to increase the rate at which adult basic skills students enter and succeed in postsecondary occupational education and training. Under the I-BEST model, basic skills instructors and career-technical faculty jointly design and teach college-level occupational, or what in Washington State are called "workforce," courses for adult basic skills students. Instruction in basic skills is thereby integrated with instruction in college-level career-technical skills. This model challenges the conventional notion that basic skills instruction should be completed by students prior to starting college-level courses. The approach thus offers the potential to accelerate the transition of adult basic skills students into college programs. This Brief, which summarizes a longer paper, presents findings from a CCRC study that investigated the outcomes of students who participated in the program. The study compared, over a two-year tracking period, the educational outcomes of I-BEST students with those of other basic skills students, including students who comprised a particularly apt comparison group — those non-I-BEST basic skills students who nonetheless enrolled in at least one workforce course in academic year 2006-07, the period of enrollment examined in the study. The analyses controlled for observed differences in background characteristics and enrollment patterns of students in the sample. We examined data on more than 31,000 basic skills students in Washington State, including nearly 900 I-BEST participants.
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