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I-BEST Boosts College Credits and Credentials For Low-skilled Adults


  • Low skills prevent many adults from getting training to help them qualify for living wage jobs.
  • Abt assessed if I-BEST improved educational achievement in the short term. Later reports will examine intermediate and long-term effects, including employment and earnings gains.
  • I-BEST improved college course enrollment, credit accumulation and credential attainment.
The Challenge

Adults with low skills or limited English proficiency face poor employment and earnings prospects. Postsecondary training is one way to improve job opportunities if the training aligns with industries’ growing local demand for skilled workers. Enabling low-skilled adults to gain access to training that can help them meet employers’ skills requirements is a critical goal for policymakers, workforce development organizations and educators. Career pathways programs address this. But limited rigorous research is available on their effects on participants’ educational and economic outcomes.

The Approach

Under the Pathways for Advancing Careers and Education (PACE) study, Abt and its partners evaluated Washington State’s Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training (I-BEST) program at three colleges. In I-BEST  basic skills instructors and occupational training instructors “team teach” integrated content; many programs also offer basic skills support classes. An implementation study examined the design and operation of the program at each college and students’ participation patterns. An impact study used an experimental design to measure effects on educational and early employment outcomes 18-24 months after random assignment.

The Results

Students assigned to the study’s treatment group that could access I-BEST were significantly more likely to enroll in college courses, particularly occupational training courses. They were more likely to complete “gatekeeper” college math and English classes essential for entering higher-level college courses. I-BEST students earned more than twice as many college credits, a key benchmark of program success. The program more than tripled completion of college credentials during the 24-month follow-up period. 

Read the I-BEST Implementation and Early Impact Report