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Highlights from the Fourth Annual National Conference on Integrated Basic Skills Pathways

Group of students in a class discussion.

The fourth annual Accelerating Opportunity National Conference on Integrated Basic Skills Pathways successfully convened over 200 people in Bellevue, Washington in April 2014. Representatives from the 11 states currently implementing integrated pathway programs were in attendance, along with national evaluators, state technical assistance coaches, and representatives from the Department of Labor and Education. Participants engaged in two intensive days of concurrent sessions, panels, keynote plenaries, and site visits to six Washington state I-BEST community colleges. The materials from the conference, including the agenda, speaker bios, and PowerPoints, are available online.

Highlights from the conference include:

  • A high-energy six-hour convening of integrated pathway coordinators. Program coordinators from all Accelerating Opportunity states and campuses exchanged strategies, tools, and resources for building communications with internal and external partners, and for sustaining and expanding integrated pathways at their institution.
  • A presentation and conversation led by Jeff Wagnitz, Vice President of Academic Affairs at Highline Community College, on the experiences of building I-BEST councils to support the development and scale of integrated pathways programs.
  • Comprehensive site visits to six community colleges in Washington State where participants had the opportunity to see team teaching in action, engage with faculty and students in one-on-one conversations, and participate in whole-group discussions. The site visits left participants feeling more equipped, energized, and ready to move forward with their work in their own programs.
  • An exceptional site visit to the Lake Washington Institute of Technology that enabled participants to see firsthand how a college is comprehensively implementing the I-BEST model. Participants came away with a clearer understanding of the many ways to integrate pathway expansion including professional technical pathways for ABE students (including on-ramps), Development Education, and streamlined transfer policies.
  • A compelling student panel moderated by Dr. Brenda Dann-Messier, Assistant Secretary for Career, Technical and Adult Education. Through thoughtfully crafted questions by Dr. Dann-Messier, the students shared their personal stories and experiences in the I-BEST program. They conveyed the long-lasting impact it has had on their lives and encouraged the audience to continue their work in supporting integrated pathway programs to help more students like themselves. Click to read Assistant Secretary Dann-Messier’s remarks on the federal perspective.

This year’s conference constructively brought together practitioners and policymakers from initiatives across the country, including Accelerating Opportunity, Accelerate Texas, and other TAACCCT-funded programs, all of which are striving to build and implement effective integrated pathway programs for their lower-skilled adult populations. The peer learning and networking that took place over the two days is a testament to the level of sophistication and quality being delivered, and most importantly their impact on peoples’ lives.

Photography copyright 2014 Tim Thornberry