About Linked Learning

What Is Linked Learning?

Linked Learning is a successful approach to education based on the idea that students work harder and dream bigger if their education is relevant to them. The Linked Learning approach integrates rigorous academics that meet college-ready standards with sequenced, high-quality career-technical education, work-based learning, and supports to help students stay on track. For Linked Learning students, education is organized around industry-sector themes. The industry theme is woven into lessons taught by teachers who collaborate across subject areas with input from working professionals, and reinforced by work-based learning with real employers. This makes learning more like the real world of work, and helps students answer the question, “Why do I need to know this?”

Linked Learning exposes high school students to previously unimagined college and career opportunities by turning their education into a personally relevant, engaging experience. Research shows that Linked Learning students have higher rates of engagement and higher graduation rates than their peers at traditional high schools. This approach to education is helping to create a disciplined, prepared, and productive future workforce for California, ready to succeed in college, career, and life.

As a result of the mounting evidence of Linked Learning’s effectiveness, the State of California has committed approximately $2 billion to help schools and regions establish and expand Linked Learning pathways. This has resulted in exponential growth in the number of school districts across California that are offering or planning to offer Linked Learning. The California Department of Education, The James Irvine Foundation, and the California Community Colleges are contributing new funding for 63 new pilot districts, ensuring that more districts, schools, and community colleges have the resources to develop Linked Learning pathways.

Download the Linked Learning Fact Sheet for more information.

Core Components of Linked Learning

Linked Learning pathways prepare students for college, career, and life by integrating the four core components:

  1. Rigorous academics that prepare students to take credit-bearing college-level courses and be university admissible upon graduation from high school, maximize articulation between high school and postsecondary programs of study, and facilitate and accelerate completion of postsecondary credentials, certificates, and degrees.
  2. Technical training that is embedded through a sequence of classes and integrated with academic content standards, aligned with career opportunities in a variety of high-need, high-skill occupations, including opportunities for stackable certificates, credentials, or degrees, where relevant.
  3. Work-based learning sequences that reach from middle school career awareness and exploration into postsecondary training and education, providing opportunities to apply core academic content  and technical training, while developing the skills, competencies and dispositions that are critical to workplace success.
  4. Comprehensive support services that are embedded as central components of a program of study, address unique needs of individual students, and include academic and socio-emotional supports, to ensure equity of access, opportunity, and success.

Linked Learning Guiding Principles

1. Linked Learning prepares students to succeed in college, career, and life.

Linked Learning is always about both college and career; it’s never a choice between one or the other. Here’s why: The probability of making a living wage in today’s economy without some form of postsecondary education is already low and will only diminish. Increasingly, career success depends on a postsecondary degree or credential—whether that’s a certificate, apprenticeship, associate’s degree, bachelor’s degree, or higher level of achievement.

2. Linked Learning prepares high school students for a full range of post-graduation opportunities.

In addition to rigorous academics, each pathway centers on increased student proficiency in vital areas such as critical thinking, problem solving, media and information literacy, and collaboration—essential skills in the workplace. Linked Learning pathways make an immediate difference, helping young people earn more right after high school and giving them an advantage in the labor market while they pursue their postsecondary education.

3. Linked Learning connects academics to real-world applications.

Linked Learning students understand how their high school education leads to their next academic or career steps. Linked Learning programs integrate core academics with a career focus and raise expectations for students. Core subjects are mastered through the power of applying knowledge in a real-world context. Students learn by addressing authentic challenges and situations found in the modern workplace.

4. Linked Learning improves student engagement.

Linked Learning provides a more integrated and equitable approach to high school for California students by eliminating practices that limit their options after high school. It inspires students by exposing them to previously unimagined college and career opportunities.

5. Linked Learning is an approach, not a program

Linked Learning is not a program or a curriculum, but rather an integrated, systemic approach involving collaboration between high school and postsecondary educators, employers and community leaders. Linked Learning is a strategy for transforming education and regional economic development. Implementing Linked Learning successfully can require systemic change at the classroom, school, district and regional levels.

6. Linked Learning is for all students.

Linked Learning is the right fit for students of all achievement levels and aspirations, with an essential commitment to equity and a focus on improving postsecondary and career outcomes for all students, including students of color and students from low-income backgrounds.

Characteristics of Successful Linked Learning Pathways

The Linked Learning approach can be offered at the high school-level at district schools, charter schools, and regional occupational programs. Linked Learning students follow personally relevant, industry-themed pathways in a wide range of fields. Regardless of the setting, the following characteristics are necessary for success:

  • Comprehensive, rigorous academics spanning grades 9-12
  • Strong connections to postsecondary institutions to ensure a smooth transition after graduation
  • Trained and motivated teachers and school leaders
  • Productive partnerships with local industry and business to inform curriculum development and support work-based learning