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I-BEST Did Not Have Educational or Earnings Impact


  • Low skills prevent many adults from training for good jobs.
  • Abt assessed if I-BEST increased educational attainment and earnings.
  • I-BEST did not increase educational attainment or earnings.
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 employment outcomes six years after random assignment.

The Results

After six years, I-BEST had no detectable impacts on receipt of credentials requiring a year or more of college study or on earnings. I-BEST also had no detectable impacts on several measures of positive employment and career progress, including current employment in a job that was full-time or offered health insurance or other benefits or on access to a career network. I-BEST did increase the likelihood of working in an occupation related to training, but it had no detectable impact on measures of financial wellbeing.