Terrica Purvis squinted through goggles as her hands carefully guided a pipette full of indigo-tinted fluid into clear glass test tubes.

It was the last chemistry lab of the winter quarter at Everett Community College, and Purvis was working through the steps of what chemistry faculty member Valerie Mosser jokingly refers to as the “post-apocalypse survival” lab — an experiment using boiled red cabbage water to test the acidity of common household chemicals.

Purvis is in her first year of study for an associate degree in nursing at Everett Community College. The 27-year-old is also one of more than 6,000 Washington community and technical college students enrolled in the state’s Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training (I-BEST) program.

Students who need extra help in subjects such as algebra struggle to learn if the content is taught in an abstract, isolated manner, educators say. That’s why I-BEST programs feature two teachers in the classroom: one provides job training and the other teaches basic skills in reading, math or English language.

For Purvis, who hasn’t been in school for nearly a decade, this class meant getting extra math help right when she needed it: during a chemistry class.

Statewide data shows students in the program graduate at a higher rate than those enrolled in traditional adult basic education.

Among students who started college from 2015 to 2018, an average of 52 percent enrolled in I-BEST classes earned a degree or certificate within four years compared to 38 percent of students who did so while enrolled in traditional adult basic education coursework, according to the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges.

The program is so successful that 12 states have implemented or are in the process of implementing an I-BEST model at one or more education institutions.

In the lab, instructor Mosser bounced between pairs of students, fielding questions about pH measurements and telling them they’ll never know when the skills they’re learning will come in handy.

Read the full article about the community college dual-teacher program by Ellen Dennis at The Hechinger Report.