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Washington State’s Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training Program (I-BEST): New evidence of effectiveness (Zeidenberg, Cho, & Jenkins 2010)

Absence of conflict of interest.

Citation

Zeidenberg, M., Cho, S., & Jenkins, D. (2010). Washington State’s Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training Program (I-BEST): New evidence of effectiveness. New York: Community College Research Center, Columbia University.

Highlights

  • The study’s objective was to examine the impacts of the Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training (I-BEST) program on educational attainment and wage outcomes.
  • The authors used statistical methods to compare students in the treatment group with students in the comparison group who had attended basic skills courses other than I-BEST, using data from the 2006–2007 and 2007–2008 school years.
  • The study found that I-BEST students were more likely to earn an educational award (that is, a certificate or degree). The authors noted that most awards earned by basic skills students are certificates. The study found no statistically significant differences between I-BEST students and the comparison students on wages earned.
  • The quality of causal evidence presented in this report for educational attainment is moderate because it was based on a well-implemented nonexperimental design. This means we are somewhat confident that any estimated effects are attributable to I-BEST, but other factors might also have contributed. For wage outcomes, the quality of casual evidence presented in this report is low because the authors did not ensure that the groups being compared were similar before the intervention. This means we are not confident that the estimated effects are attributable to I-BEST; other factors are likely to have contributed.

Intervention Examined

Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training (I-BEST)

Features of the Intervention

The study examined the I-BEST program model offered by community colleges in Washington State, overseen by the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges. In the I-BEST model, occupational classes for basic skills students are taught jointly by basic skills instructors and professional-technical faculty. Compared with typical classes for adult basic skills, in which few students end up transitioning to college-level classes that would aid in receipt of a credential, I-BEST participants are enrolled in a career pathway that culminates in postsecondary credentials and career-path employment. Examples of pathways include medical assistant, office manager, and welder.

Features of the Study

The authors used a statistical method called propensity score matching to compare students in the treatment group with students who had attended non-I-BEST basic skills courses. The authors matched treatment and comparison students on education program classification, current and previous schooling characteristics, and social and economic characteristics to ensure that groups were similar in terms of these characteristics at the outset of the study. Students in the comparison group might have attended career and technical education courses on their own. The authors also conducted multivariate regression (ordinary least squares and logistic) and difference-in-differences analyses, but these methods are not discussed in this review because the authors indicated preferring the propensity score matching analysis over the regression results. In addition, the authors did not present all relevant outcomes from the different-in-differences analysis.

The authors obtained data from the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges (SBCTC), which included information on all basic skills students enrolled in any Washington state community or technical college during 2005–2006, 2006–2007, and 2007–2008. The study sample included any student who had taken at least one (non-credit) basic skills course during the period of study. Analyses excluded any students who had prior college education. Study data were available through spring 2009. The authors also obtained employment data (also from the SBCTC) for Q1 1998 to Q2 2009.

Study Sites

The study included students attending basic skills courses at all 34 community colleges across Washington State, all of which offered the I-BEST program.

Findings

Education

  • I-BEST students were 36 percentage points more likely than comparison students to earn an educational award; that is, a certificate or degree. The authors noted that the majority of awards earned by basic skills students are certificates.

Earnings and Wages

  • There were no differences between I-BEST students and comparison students on wages earned.

Considerations for Interpreting the Findings

The authors did not ensure that the comparison and treatment groups had equivalent earnings at baseline. To demonstrate equivalence, the authors needed to control for previous earnings more than one year before program participation. The authors did not include a lagged measure of earnings in the propensity score matching analysis nor did they control for a lagged measure of earnings. Therefore, we are not confident that the estimated effects on earnings are attributable to I-BEST; other factors are likely to have contributed.

Although the authors noted having data for the 2005–2006 cohort, they did not include this cohort of students in the analysis. The authors noted that 2006–2007 was the first year that I-BEST operated beyond the early pilot phase, and, therefore, only data from 2006–2007 and 2007–2008 were included for analyses.

Altogether, the authors completed analyses using three different models: multivariate regression analysis, propensity score matching, and difference-in-differences. This review incorporated only analyses and findings from the propensity score matching model and did not incorporate a discussion of the processes or outcomes for the multivariate regression analysis or the difference-in-differences design. The authors indicated preferring the propensity score matching analysis over the regression results. In addition, the authors did not present all relevant outcomes from the different in differences analysis.

Causal Evidence Rating

The quality of causal evidence presented in this report for educational attainment is moderate because it is based on a well-implemented nonexperimental design. This means we are somewhat confident that any estimated effects are attributable to I-BEST, but other factors might also have contributed. For wage outcomes, the quality of casual evidence presented in this report is low because the authors did not ensure that the groups being compared were similar before the intervention. This means we are not confident that the estimated effects are attributable to I-BEST; other factors are likely to have contributed.

Additional Sources

Jenkins, D., Zeidenberg, M., & Kienzl, G. S. (2009). Educational outcomes of I-BEST, Washington State Community and Technical College System’s Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training Program: Findings from a multivariate analysis (CCRC Working Paper No.16). New York, NY: Columbia University, Teachers College, Community College Research Center.

Reviewed by CLEAR

April 2020