Learning about IBEST at the Source

This past week, I had the opportunity to tour and learn from IBEST programs in the birth place of the model, Washington State.  Laurie Kierstead-Joseph and Wendy Scheder-Black attended as well; they are the team charged with implementing IBEST at PCC.1078

IBEST stands for Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training.  This nationally recognized model integrates basic skills training (in math, reading, English) into an occupational credit bearing track to accelerate student progress toward a credential and family-sustaining employment.  IBEST programs launch adult learners onto career pathways that lead to stackable certificates in fields with in-demand jobs.

According to a Columbia University research study, IBEST students are three times more likely to earn college credit than traditional basic skills students and nine times more likely to complete a credential. Washington colleges have developed and implemented this model for about ten years, so their experience and wisdom is invaluable.

This past year, the Adult Basic Education Division launched two IBEST pilot programs.  The first is in collaboration with the Hotel and Restaurant Management (HRM) Certificate program at PCC’s Northwest Campus.  In the HRM IBEST program, students who are learning English as a Second Language have the opportunity to accelerate their progress toward a career in hotel or restaurant management by learning English while studying in HRM.  The cohort of HRM IBEST students who began their program last August will finish up their coursework this fall with an internship and hopefully a secure job opportunity in the field.

Our second IBEST program is in Behavioral Health Services (BHS) and is funded through a grant from the Arizona Department of Education.  Students in the BHS IBEST benefit from a collaboration between PCC Adult Education, PCC Center for Training and Development, and Pima County One Stop.  The BHS IBEST program integrates GED preparation with BHS content instruction, accelerating the students’ progress toward both the High School Equivalency Diploma and BHS Certificate that they will need to begin a career in Behavioral Health.

Our tour guide Will Durden from State Board for Community & Technical Colleges, gave us a well rounded schedule of programs and people to visit. We can’t thank him enough for his time and planning for our visit. For more information about IBEST from Will check out this PowerPoint: http://www.cga.ct.gov/coc/PDFs/poverty/2014-09-24/durden.pdf

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Our trip to Washington included visits to three community colleges in Seattle:  Seattle North, Shoreline, and Renton Technical.  At each school, we observed classes and met with leadership and teachers in their IBEST programs.  Washington has successfully integrated basic skills training into a variety of occupational programs including accounting, construction trades, medical assistant, automotive and early childhood education. Occupational and basic skills faculty alike shared their observations of the positive impact on student success.

At Renton Technical College, we had the pleasure of meeting with a student who is a graduate of their CNA IBEST program.  She shared how important the IBEST program was in launching her career in the field of nursing.  The short-term, integrated nature of the IBEST program appealed to her need to get a livable-wage job and allowed her to jump from her ESL classes to the workplace in just over a month.

We return to our work at PCC, emboldened by the lessons learned in Washington:

  • We have seen how pairing adult education and career and technical educators in the IBEST classroom can enhance the learning for all students.
  • We have learned how IBEST can increase certificate completion for students with basic skills needs.
  • We have learned strategies for developing and launching new IBEST programs that will ensure strong, impactful programming for students.
  • We have seen the importance of developing the strength of IBEST teachers to co-plan and team-teach to ensure that students reach both their basic skills and occupational goals.

I am excited to continue our planning and implementation of more IBEST programs at Pima which will include bringing in the Washington state IBEST experts to train all Pima administrators and both the ABE and Occupational teachers.

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