Washington State’s I-BEST: Transforming Adult Basic Education


The Washington state’s Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training (I-BEST) program is celebrating its success. More than 50% of enrolled students earned degrees or certificates in just four years, compared to the 38% who undertake traditional adult basic education coursework. The program combines job training with basic skills education, and has been especially helpful for high-demand career fields such as nursing, aeronautics, manufacturing, and information technology.

Two-Teacher Model: A Recipe for Success

One of the main reasons for I-BEST’s success is the two-teacher model. One teacher provides job training, while the other teaches basic skills such as math, reading, and English language. This model has helped struggling students receive extra help, making them better equipped to succeed in their classes. For instance, a chemistry class at Everett Community College used the two-teacher model, with a separate tutor co-teaching an entry-level statistics course. The chemistry professor confirms that having a dedicated tutor for math was the most valuable part of the I-BEST model.

Life-Changing for Students

I-BEST has been a life-changing program for many students, including Terrica Purvis, a 27-year-old nursing student who had not been in school for nearly a decade. Math and science classes were hard for her.but got the extra support she needed from the program. After completing her associate degree in nursing, Purvis now plans to pursue a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and work in labor and delivery at a hospital.

Since I-BEST was launched as a state pilot program nearly 20 years ago with the aim of improving job prospects for students by providing vocational training, enrollment in the program has increased by over 20%. It has brought in a diverse group of students. Additionally, I-BEST has opened up financial aid opportunities for students who didn’t graduate from high school but are enrolled in a qualifying program that teaches basic skills as part of a career pathway.

I-BEST’s Impact

The program is also addressing a growing need for healthcare professionals in the US. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has estimated that an estimated 200,000 jobs for registered nurses are expected to open each year in the US through 2031. Therefore, I-BEST has played a critical role in the workforce.

I-BEST’s success has encouraged other states to implement similar models at education institutions. For instance, at Bellevue College, I-BEST students enrolled in a Business 101 class meet with an instructor for an adult basic education class on a separate day. The instructor helps students improve their English language skills.

The program is also helping students who don’t do well on placement tests must take pre-college classes in their weak subjects. I-BEST provides an alternative pathway for these students, offering them vocational training and basic skills education in a supportive and engaging environment.

Overall, the success of I-BEST highlights the importance of providing students with the resources they need to succeed, especially in high-demand career fields. Programs like I-BEST, which combine job training with basic skills education and provide dedicated support, are helping to close the skills gap and create opportunities for students from all backgrounds.