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Findings from Washington State’s Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training (I-BEST) Program Implementation and Early Impact Report

June 13, 2019
Self-Sufficiency, Welfare & Employment
Pathways for Advancing Careers and Education (PACE), 2007-2018 | Learn more about this project
Washington State’s Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training (I-BEST) Cover
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  • File Size 3mb
  • Pages 6
  • Published 2019


This brief summarizes the implementation and early impacts of the Washington State Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training (I-BEST) program at three colleges: Bellingham Technical College, Everett Community College, and Whatcom Community College. I-BEST is a nationally known program that aims to increase access to and completion of college-level occupational training in a variety of in-demand occupational areas. Its signature feature is team teaching by a basic skills instructor and an occupational instructor during at least 50 percent of occupational training class time. I-BEST is one of nine career pathways programs being evaluated under the Pathways for Advancing Careers and Education (PACE) study sponsored by the Administration for Children and Families. Using a rigorous research design, the study found that the I-BEST programs at the three colleges increased participation in college level courses, number of credits earned and credential attainment. Future reports will examine whether the I‑BEST program resulted in gains in employment and earnings.

Primary Research Questions

  1. 1 Was the intervention implemented as designed?
  2. 2 How did services received differ between study participants who could access I-BEST programs in the three colleges versus those who could not?
  3. 3 What were the effects of access to I-BEST on short-term education outcomes including earning credits and credentials?


The I-BEST program aims to help students in basic skills programs (e.g., Adult Basic Education, English as a Second Language) who otherwise might have spent time in remediation, to enroll and succeed in college-level occupational training courses. Each I-BEST program is a course of study within a structured career pathway, and it offers students the opportunity to obtain credentials and college credits in in-demand occupations. Besides the team teaching, the I-BEST program evaluated in PACE also included financial support for tuition and associated materials; and additional advising services focused on supporting students’ academic needs, navigating college procedures, and career planning.

Key Findings and Highlights

  • The colleges varied in how they delivered I-BEST across the different occupational programs. The combination of the instructional approach (team teaching), advising, and financial supports resulted in a clear contrast between the services available to treatment group members and those available to control group members.
  • The program had positive impacts on college course enrollment, driven primarily by enrollment in occupational training courses.
  • I-BEST increased credits earned and credential attainment.


The I-BEST evaluation included an implementation study that examines the design and operation of the program and enrolled students’ participation patterns, and an impact study that uses an experimental design to measure differences in educational and employment outcomes. The evaluation pools impact results across the three colleges and all occupational training areas. From November 2011 to September 2014, the PACE evaluation randomly assigned 632 program applicants either to the treatment group (315 students), which could access the I-BEST program, or to the control group (317 students), which could not. Prior to estimating I‑BEST impacts, the research team published an analysis plan specifying key hypotheses and outcome measures, and registered those outcomes. Data sources were college records for a 24-month follow-up period, a follow-up survey conducted approximately 18 months after random assignment, and site visits to document program implementation and operations.

Last Reviewed: June 12, 2019