Learning Tour: Maya Angelou's Young Adult Learning Center learns from the I-BEST in Seattle (pt. 2)


As a part of Raise DC’s Learning Tour opportunity, a team from Maya Angelou’s Young Adult Learning Center (YALC) visited Seattle to learn about Washington State’s Integrated Basic Education & Skills Training (I-BEST) program. YALC members sought to gather promising practices and further their knowledge of postsecondary and career options to bring back to their own students in the District.  

Jenny Nauss, YALC Instructional Manager, shares her experience from the YALC Learning Tour:

As the YALC expands its work-learn model in 2016-2017, we are looking at other sites from which we can draw ideas for programmatic structure and best practices for classroom teaching. Raise DC provided us the opportunity to visit Seattle Central College (SCC) and Renton Technical College (RTC), both champions of the Washington State I-BEST model, which provides academic and workforce pathways for students who might otherwise not succeed.

At Seattle Central College, we had the opportunity to observe an academic I-BEST class, “Change Agents: Language, Identity, and Transformation,” which was co-taught by two instructors, a key component of all I-BEST classes. The co-teaching model allows content experts to collaborate with Adult Basic Education (ABE) or English-as-a-Second-Language (ESL) teachers, who provide additional support to the students. In every meeting we attended, practitioners spoke to the importance of the co-teaching model, as well as the need to provide high-quality professional development to teachers.

At Renton Technical College, we observed a medical assistant class in which two teachers took turns reviewing key terms with students who were preparing for a test. Both campuses offer I-BEST students an additional support class to augment their content classes. In this support class, the I-BEST instructor might pre-teach vocabulary and key concepts, reinforce writing skills, explain the homework, or facilitate a writing workshop. Then the same instructor co-teaches the content class, whether it is in early childhood education (at both SCC & RTC), medical assistant, nursing assistant, automotive, or welding courses (at RTC)—providing additional support in a variety of ways. The subject matter taught in support classes is reiterated in the content classes, blending basic education skills with real-life career competencies taught by instructors specific to the field.

Directors, teachers, and students spoke highly of the I-BEST model, citing benefits from diverse student groupings and extra instructor support. According to SCC & RTC program directors, I-BEST students are less likely to drop out of school, possibly due to the extra support from having a second teacher and support class, as well as the sense of community that develops in each cohort.

One example of the benefit of diverse experiences lies in SCC’s early childhood education program, which has a high Somalian immigrant student population. Many of these students are parents and provide in-home daycare services, so they offer a wealth of child-rearing experience and anecdotes about running a home business that others in the class benefit from hearing.

We can take many of these best practices back to our program, specifically in bolstering our
co-teaching model and using our new ABE Reading program as an opportunity to both teach reading skills, as well as pre-teach concepts the students will learn in their GED classes to build students’ schema and build comprehension. Furthermore, as we expand our work-learn program and prepare for individuals in the workforce to lead classroom instruction who may not have training in pedagogy, we can bring aspects of the I-BEST co-teaching model to our own program to ensure that teachers, as well as students, succeed.