About Linked Learning

What Is Linked Learning?

Linked Learning is a proven approach that is transforming education for California students by integrating rigorous academics with career-based learning and real world workplace experiences. Linked Learning ignites high school students’ passions by creating meaningful learning experiences through career-oriented pathways in fields such as engineering, health care, performing arts, law, and more. When students love what they’re learning, they work harder, dream bigger, and learn more.

By turning high school education into a personally relevant, engaging experience for all students, Linked Learning exposes them to previously unimagined college and career opportunities. 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 an engaged, disciplined, and productive future workforce for California, ready to succeed in college, career, and life.

The California Department of Education, The James Irvine Foundation, and the California Community Colleges are contributing new funding for the 63 new pilot districts, ensuring that more districts, schools, and community colleges have the resources to develop Linked Learning pathways.

Core Components of Linked Learning

Each Linked Learning pathway is grounded in a set of four guiding principles:

  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 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 customary to the modern workplace.

4. Linked Learning improves student engagement.

Linked Learning provides a more integrated and equitable approach to high school equity 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.

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 nine to 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