Integrated Basic Education and Skills
Washington’s Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training Program (I-BEST) is a nationally recognized model that quickly boosts students’ literacy and work skills so that students can earn credentials, get living wage jobs, and put their talents to work for employers.
I-BEST pairs two instructors in the classroom – one to teach professional and technical content and the other to teach basic skills in reading, math, writing or English language – so students can move through school and into jobs faster. As students progress through the program, they learn basic skills in real-world scenarios offered by the job-training part of the curriculum.
I-BEST challenges the traditional notion that students must complete all basic education before they can even start a job-training program. This approach often discourages students because it takes more time, and the stand-alone basic skills classes do not qualify for college credit. I-BEST students start earning college credits immediately.
A Benefit to the Economy
Talent and skills determine the competitive edge in today’s economy, yet one out of every six people in Washington lacks the basic reading, writing and math skills to get living-wage jobs and meet the needs of employers. This segment of Washington’s population is growing quickly at the same time that most jobs now require college experience. By 2019, two-thirds of all new jobs in Washington State will require at least one year of college education.
In order to have a vibrant economy, Washington employers need access to skilled, credentialed workers and all residents need access to opportunities that allow them to earn a living wage.
In Washington’s 34 community and technical colleges, I-BEST pairs workforce training with ABE or ESL so students learn literacy and workplace skills at the same time. Adult literacy and vocational instructors work together to develop and deliver instruction. Colleges provide higher levels of support and student services to address the needs of non-traditional students. There are more than 170 approved programs, expanding each year since the 2006 launch of I-BEST. State Board staff provide colleges with technical assistance and information on best practices to ensure low-income students successfully complete integrated programs and find family wage careers.
Why I-BEST Was Developed
The SBCTC developed Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training (I-BEST) to address the changing needs of employers and students. It tested traditional notions that students must first complete all levels of adult basic education before they can advance in workforce education training programs.
In Washington state, over half of the students come to community and technical colleges with the goal of getting to work. Research showed that students were not transitioning to higher levels of education.
“Only 13 percent of the students who started in ESL programs went on to earn at least some college credits. Less than one-third (30 percent) of adult basic education (ABE/GED) students made the transition to college-level courses. Only four to six percent of either group ended up getting 45 or more college credits or earning a certificate or degree within five years.”
Building Pathways to Success for Low-Skill Adult Students:
Lessons for Community College Policy and Practice
from a Longitudinal Student Tracking Study
(Prince, Jenkins: April 2005).
I-BEST moves students further and faster to certificate and degree completion. As a result, I-BEST was designed to directly transition into college-level programs and help students build skills that will move them forward.
The I-BEST Model
- I-BEST programs must include college-level professional-technical credits that are required of all students in the selected program and are part of a career pathway.
- All students must qualify for federally supported levels of basic skills education.
- Students must be pre-tested using CASAS (the standardized test used statewide to assess ABE and ESL students).
- An instructor from basic skills and an instructor from the professional-technical program must jointly instruct in the same classroom with at least a 50 percent overlap of the instructional time.
- Faculty must develop integrated program outcomes, jointly plan curriculum, and jointly assess student learning and skill development.
- I-BEST programs must appear on the demand list for the local area and meet a minimum set wage.
Questions about I-BEST?
Contact Louisa Erickson, SBCTC, firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-704-4368.
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