• 0.59,1.50
  • 0.59,1.50

I-BEST helped workers with low skills develop basic skills and receive occupational credentials.

Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training (I-BEST) is currently offering some services remotely in response to COVID-19
Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training (I-BEST) is currently offering some services remotely in response to COVID-19

I-BEST helped workers with low skills develop basic skills and receive occupational credentials.

I-BEST offered occupational training courses in a variety of areas, including allied health, welding, and clerical fields. I-BEST integrated basic skills and occupational training through the use of a team teaching model whereby a basic skills and occupational instructor team taught (for at least 50 percent of class time) an occupational training course. In the version of I-BEST evaluated in the Pathways for Advancing Careers and Education (PACE) study, participants could access financial supports for tuition and supportive services, as well as a dedicated advisor who provided academic supports and career planning. Most I-BEST programs evaluated in the PACE study lasted for one to two academic quarters. The population served by this intervention consisted of individuals with low basic skills, limited English proficiency, or both. I-BEST is a model of basic skills and occupational training team teaching used throughout Washington State. This intervention page describes a specific version of the I-BEST model evaluated in the PACE study. The PACE study the I-BEST programs at three colleges in Washington State: Bellingham Technical College (BTC), Whatcom Community College (WCC), and Everett Community College (EvCC). As of 2020, colleges in Washington continue to offer I-BEST programs in a wide range of occupations and academic programs.

Year evaluation began: 2011
Populations and employment barriers:
Intervention services: Education, Supportive services, Training, Occupational or sectoral training, Work experience, Work readiness activities
Setting(s): Tested in multiple settings

Effectiveness rating and effect by outcome domain

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Outcome domain Term Effectiveness rating Effect in 2018 dollars and percentages Effect in standard deviations Sample size
Increase earnings Short-term No evidence to assess support
Long-term No evidence to assess support
Very long-term No evidence to assess support
Increase employment Short-term No evidence to assess support
Long-term No evidence to assess support
Very long-term No evidence to assess support
Decrease benefit receipt Short-term No evidence to assess support
Long-term No evidence to assess support
Very long-term No evidence to assess support
Increase education and training All measurement periods Supported favorable 30% (in percentage points) 0.592 463

Effects over time by outcome domain

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Size and direction of effects
Services were delivered for 6 months
Moderate-to-large favorable effect Small favorable effect
No effect
Small unfavorable effect Moderate-to-large unfavorable effect
Hollow data points indicate average effects that may be due to chance.

Services were delivered for 6 months

Years since the start of service delivery Size of the effect on education and training
1.50 Moderate-to-large favorable effect 0.59*

Participant race and ethnicity
Black or African American
White, not Hispanic
Hispanic or Latino of any race
Unknown or not reported

Implementation details

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Dates covered by study

The evaluation randomly assigned program applicants from November 2011 to September 2014. Data were collected from college records for a 24-month follow-up period and from a follow-up survey conducted about 18 months after random assignment. Colleges in Washington have continued to offer I-BEST programs after the study.

Organizations implementing intervention

The study evaluated the I-BEST programs as implemented by three colleges in Washington State: BTC, EvCC, and WCC.

Populations served

The colleges’ I-BEST programs served individuals whose skill levels were too low to enroll in college-level occupational training. This included students already enrolled in the colleges’ adult basic education (ABE) or English as a second language (ESL) programs, as well as individuals in the community with low basic skills who were interested in occupational training. Participation in I-BEST was voluntary.

Sample members generally had low income, with 47 percent reporting annual income of less than $15,000 in the year before random assignment. They were older than traditional college students, with 33 percent older than age 35. Roughly one-third (31 percent) had less than a high school diploma or equivalent. More than half (58 percent) were female; slightly more than half (55 percent) identified as White, not Hispanic; and about one-quarter (26 percent) identified as Hispanic or Latino of any race. Sixty-seven percent were not working at the time of random assignment.

Description of services implemented

Because many individuals with low incomes need occupational skills to improve their economic outcomes and need support with basic skills to succeed in classwork, the I-BEST model integrated these two types of instruction.

Colleges had flexibility in creating their I-BEST programs. However, colleges had to complete a comprehensive application that detailed the local demand for each occupational field that was offered, as well as a roadmap to the full educational pathway for that program beyond the initial classes. Examples of the I-BEST programs offered at the three colleges include welding, precision machining, nursing assistant, and clerical assistant. Colleges could also change course offerings in response to shifts in the local labor market. For example, BTC stopped offering an I-BEST electrical program partway through the study in response to faculty concerns about decreased demand for electricians in the construction industry.

The core components of the I-BEST model included the following:

  • Education. Colleges offered courses as part of structured career pathways that led to a postsecondary credential and in-demand jobs in the local labor market. Individuals interested in a particular occupational program, such as a nursing assistant, welding, or clerical administration program, could apply to it and enroll only if they were randomly selected to participate.

  • Occupational training. Classes in each program were team-taught, with basic skills instructors paired with occupational instructors for at least 50 percent of occupational training class time.

To offset the costs associated with implementing I-BEST, including curriculum development, instructor preparation, and added instruction, enhanced state funding reimbursed colleges at 1.75 times the normal rate for a full-time equivalent student. Funding associated with the PACE study enabled the three colleges to implement the following enhancements for their I-BEST programs:

  • Advising. A dedicated advisor at each college provided students with academic and career guidance.

  • Supportive services. Students in I-BEST programs could access additional financial support to pay for training costs not covered through financial aid. This included the cost of tuition, books, tools, other course materials, or transportation.

The study found that, although the three colleges varied in how they delivered I-BEST across the different occupational programs, they largely implemented the intervention as designed. An example of how the programs varied was in how the basic skills and occupational instructors divided their roles as teachers. In some programs, the basic skills instructor jointly delivered content with the occupational instructor. In others, the instructors took turns teaching or acting as a student to ask clarifying questions. The study also found that teaching teams that worked together for multiple classes were better prepared to deliver content and guide students.

Service intensity

I-BEST programs at the three colleges lasted for one to three quarters. The amount of credits students received for completing the programs ranged from 12.5 (nursing assistant) to 45 (precision machining).

Overall, 73 percent of intervention group members who were offered the I-BEST program participated in it. Participation varied by college and the specific I-BEST program at each college. For example, almost 90 percent of WCC intervention group members enrolled in an I-BEST course, whereas 76 percent of BTC students and 65 percent of EvCC students enrolled. For three programs at BTC and the clerical programs at EvCC and WCC, intervention group participation was more than 80 percent. But for the I-BEST welding program at EvCC, intervention group participation was just 48 percent.

Fifty-eight percent of intervention group members who enrolled in I-BEST obtained a credential. Among this group, the average number of workforce credits earned while in the I-BEST program was 14.4, and the average number of quarters attended was 1.5.

Comparison conditions

Individuals randomly assigned to the comparison group could not enroll in I-BEST classes but had access to several other sources of educational and occupational supports. These included alternative training programs in their communities and non-I-BEST courses at the three colleges in the study. These alternative sources of support did not provide the same combination of instructional approach, advising, and financial supports that I-BEST programs provided.


The study did not discuss any partners involved with implementing I-BEST. However, the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges (SBCTC) designed the I-BEST model, and colleges had to apply to the SBCTC to operate I-BEST programs and receive funding.


Each of the I-BEST programs implemented at the three colleges included occupational instructors and basic skills instructors. In addition to the basic skills instruction delivered via team teaching during occupational training, I-BEST programs often included academic support classes, taught by basic skills instructors, to provide students with the academic foundation to succeed in occupational training.

The colleges also had dedicated advisors for I-BEST intervention group members who could assist students during enrollment, while they were attending I-BEST courses, and during career planning.

The study authors did not include information about the number of staff or their training, degrees, or certifications. Many basic skills instructors had prior experience with ABE and ESL programs.

Local context

Three colleges took part in the PACE evaluation of I-BEST—BTC, EvCC, and WCC. BTC and WCC are located in Bellingham, WA, a city of about 80,000 people located 90 miles north of Seattle. EvCC is located roughly 30 miles north of Seattle in Everett, a city with an approximate population of 106,000. In 2015, the poverty rates in Bellingham and Everett were 23 percent and 18 percent, respectively.

Fidelity measures

The study did not discuss any tools to measure fidelity to the intervention model.

Funding source

Colleges offered I-BEST as part of their general operations. The SBCTC reimbursed colleges for I-BEST courses at a higher rate than regular courses to help cover the costs associated with implementing I-BEST, including development of a curriculum, instructor preparation, and supports for students such as a dedicated program coordinator. For the PACE study, colleges received additional foundation funding for a dedicated advisor position and for the additional financial support provided to some students.

Cost information

The study did not discuss a cost per participant or a comparison of costs and benefits.

Studies of this intervention

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Study quality rating Study counts per rating
High High 1
Low Low 1