Provides findings from a study of the Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training (I-BEST) program in Washington state, as well as recommendations for other areas interested in creating similar programs.

“Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training (I-BEST) integrates the teaching of basic skills and technical content in order to accelerate basic skills students’ transition into and through a college-level occupational field of study. This innovative program model was developed by the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges (SBCTC) in collaboration with the community and technical colleges in the state. At the time of [this] study, all 34 community and technical colleges in Washington State offered I-BEST programming in at least one workforce area, and there were approximately 150 approved I-BEST programs across the state.


This study represents the final phase of a multi-year evaluation of the I-BEST model that began in 2009, conducted by [the Community College Research Center] in collaboration with the Washington SBCTC. Based on fieldwork undertaken in spring 2011 on 16 I-BEST programs at eight colleges, this report builds on CCRC’s earlier qualitative and quantitative research. In addition, the report considers the I-BEST student experience and evaluates the costs of I-BEST program delivery” (p.2).


“Specifically, this report addresses the following research questions:

  • What features of I-BEST programs…seem to support student progression and completion?
  • Given that the instructional component of I-BEST varies across the colleges in the amount of integrated team teaching, what approaches to instruction appear to promote student learning?
  • How do students experience I-BEST? What do they perceive to be the benefits and challenges of the program?
  • What costs are associated with delivering I-BEST programs? Do the benefits of the program exceed the costs?” (p.6).


As far as how studied programs were included, the authors explain that they “selected 16 I-BEST programs at eight colleges in the Washington community and technical college system…The goal of this selection process was to identify at least two programs in each of several fields of study and, where possible, to select relatively higher performing programs to inform the development of hypotheses about effective…practices” (p.6).

(Abstractor: Author and Website Staff)

Full Publication Title: Contextualized College Transition Strategies for Adult Basic Skills Students: Learning from Washington State’s I-BEST Program Model

Major Findings & Recommendations

The study reports the following key findings: “Program structure. I-BEST programs appear to be highly structured, limiting complex decisions students must make about program and course selection and offering support services and assistance in securing financial aid... Instruction. A basic skills instructor and a professional–technical instructor jointly teach I-BEST courses, yet the programs vary in the degree of integrated instruction and team teaching... The student experience. Students responded positively to the structural components of the program design and to the instructional approach... Sustainability, scale, and cost. One of the major challenges for the colleges in Washington is the sustainability of I-BEST programs amid competing priorities, fluctuations in program enrollments, faculty and administrator turnover, and sharp cuts in state funding.” (p.2). The study also makes the following recommendations: “Transitions. Programs that are designed to increase the rate at which adult basic skills students transition into and through college-level programs need to consider all of the possible transition points and identify barriers to a successful transition to further education... Readiness criteria. As part of the process of assessing pathways and transition points, it is necessary to consider the readiness of students who complete the intervention... Integration and contextualization. Interventions for low-skilled students should place greater emphasis on incorporating both integrated instruction and contextualized basic skills instruction than on team teaching per se... Flexibility. The I-BEST model in Washington State requires that a professional–technical instructor and a basic skills instructor are present in the classroom together at least 50 percent of the time. Some instructors [that were] interviewed stated that more overlap was needed; others wanted more flexibility in the required amount… Planning time. Program leaders and instructors teaching in I-BEST stated that planning was a critical but often overlooked component of the model… State- or system-level support. Even if colleges in other states develop less costly transition programs by selectively adapting I-BEST design principles, they are likely to need financial incentives to offer such programs since the cost of established basic skills programs are so low” (p.3). (Abstractor: Author and Website Staff)