A: 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. Their chosen 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?”
Q: How does Linked Learning work and what are its components?
A: Linked Learning is an integrated, systemic approach involving collaboration between high school and postsecondary educators, employers, and community leaders. Linked Learning’s power comes from the close integration of four core components:
• Rigorous academics that prepare students to succeed in college.
• Career-technical education courses in sequence, emphasizing real-world applications of academic learning.
• Work-based learning that provides exposure to real-world workplaces and teaches the professional skills needed to thrive in a career.
• Comprehensive support services to address the individual needs of all students, ensuring equity of access, opportunity, and success.
Q: Why Linked Learning?
A: Linked Learning addresses some of the fundamental challenges facing California’s high schools. Many traditional academic programs do not feel relevant to students’ lives and aspirations. At the same time, career and technical education (CTE) often lacks the academic rigor required for admissions to and success in college. Linked Learning provides students of all levels and abilities with the best possible chance for success in college and career.
Q: Are Linked Learning pathways proven to be effective?
A: The Linked Learning approach already has transformed the lives of thousands of students in California. Districts and schools certified in the Linked Learning approach consistently demonstrate better student outcomes than traditional high schools. Research shows that compared with their peers, students in certified Linked Learning pathways accumulate more credits, have higher GPAs, and are less likely to drop out of high school. And the State of California is betting big on the Linked Learning approach, supporting district and regional implementation of Linked Learning through AB 790, SB 1070, the California Career Pathways Trust, and the CTE Incentive Grants.
Q: How is Linked Learning different from career technical education (CTE) and career academies or charter schools?
A: Linked Learning is defined by a central commitment to college and career success for all students, rather than tracking some students to a college path, and others to a career path. Linked Learning is unique in its approach that encompasses effective features of CTE and the flexibility of charter schools, tightly integrated with rigorous and relevant college-prep academics and work-based learning in the real world, to prepare students for college, career, and life. Linked Learning allows students to apply classroom knowledge in real-world situations, and answers the question, “Why do I need to know this?”
Q: Who is an advocate of Linked Learning?
A: A broad and diverse community of educators, employers, policymakers, and community-based organizations champion Linked Learning, aiming to expand and improve programs and offer them to more students across the state. The Linked Learning Alliance, a statewide coalition comprised of more than 250 educators, industry professionals, and community leaders, is a hub of information and works to build awareness about Linked Learning, advocate for policies that support high-quality implementation, and expand Linked Learning opportunities for students.
General Frequently Asked Questions
A: Policymakers have played a critical role in the development and expansion of Linked Learning in California. As leaders of education reform, their support helps build awareness, change mindsets and implement strategies that promote Linked Learning on a broader scale. The Linked Learning Alliance, an organization that supports and works to sustain Linked Learning, promotes strategies to improve California high schools through Linked Learning. This is a way for its members to develop policy priorities, brainstorm ways for the Alliance to support the implementation of policy, and identifying opportunities and challenges in the state budget plans that would impact Linked Learning and its expansion.
Q: What are some of the current policy goals and priorities that will enhance and expand Linked Learning?
A: Organizations including the Linked Learning Alliance and ConnectEd have identified key policy goals that support overall Linked Learning strategy. Current policy goals aim to recognize Linked Learning as a key strategy for preparing students for postsecondary and career success in California. Other goals are to help develop teaching models and more teacher preparation and development. To support students, policy goals have been established to ensure that high-quality programs are available in tandem with work-based learning opportunities and student support services. You can read updates on Linked Learning related policy at www.LinkedLearning.org.
Q: How much does implementing Linked Learning cost?
A: The Linked Learning approach is an affordable and sustainable long-term investment in student success. By creating a workforce that is better equipped to succeed in a postsecondary education program and handle the careers of the future, Linked Learning benefits the state’s businesses, tax base, and economy. Linked Learning does entail start-up costs and will benefit from higher ongoing expenditures. However, successfully implementing Linked Learning is first and foremost about using existing resources differently. While Linked Learning can benefit from additional resources, the districts already practicing Linked Learning prove that successful implementation can be achieved by reallocating existing resources. Resources already earmarked for teacher prep time, professional development, counseling, supplemental instruction, and after-school activities need to be squarely focused on advancing a district-wide or region-wide system of Linked Learning.
Policymaker Frequently Asked Questions
A: Linked Learning offers employers the chance to work directly with local students, help train the next generation of California’s workforce, and positively impact their industry sector, and the state of California. Productive partnerships can produce real benefits for businesses, including increased recruiting opportunities for future entry-level workers, lower recruiting and training costs, greater morale among current employees serving as mentors, and positive publicity. There are also benefits that may align with an organization’s current commitment to social responsibility. Linked Learning gives an organization the chance to give back to the community, affect positive change in education, and make a difference in the lives of local students.
Q: As an employer, what are some of the different ways I can support Linked Learning?
A: There are a variety of ways to get involved, all of which afford students opportunities to become more deeply engaged in their work and better prepared for success in college and career. A good first step for involvement include giving an in-class presentation, hosting a field trip, or serving on a pathway’s advisory committee. The full continuum of engagement include activities such as speaking to classes about your profession, meeting with students at career fairs, assisting with industry-themed class projects, helping conduct informational and mock interviews, assisting with college visits and other field trips, or offering internships, externships, and job shadow opportunities. You can even volunteer to help teachers develop their curriculum.
Q: I’d like to support my local Linked Learning pathway, but I can’t offer any job shadows or internships right now. Are there other ways to get involved?
A: Absolutely. Employers are a key component to helping students get the real-world experience that will help them succeed in college, career, and life. While job shadows, internships, and externships offer valuable depth, insight, and experience to students, employers are also able to lend their expertise by giving presentations or offering site tours to students enrolled in a Linked Learning pathway. Even offering a small amount of time to discuss how Linked Learning helps students become prepared for the working world would make a significant contribution to their learning experience.
Community Partner-specific Questions
A. Community organizations play an important role in Linked Learning’s success by advocating for Linked Learning within their networks and in their communities and by educating the public about Linked Learning and about how to start Linked Learning pathways in their local school districts. Some community partners may act as “intermediaries,” and connect employers and students together in work-based learning opportunities. Currently almost twenty community organizations and advocates are members of the Linked Learning Alliance.Regional and Local Community Partner Frequently Asked Questions
A: Numerous tools and resources exist to help build, improve and sustain high-quality Linked Learning pathways including the Linked Learning Alliance, ConnectEd, the National Academy Foundation and the College & Career Academy Support Network, among other organizations.A team of experts has established criteria to help schools plan and implement new high-quality pathways aligned with the principles of Linked Learning while working toward Linked Learning certification. Support tools for curriculum development, teacher preparation and professional development can be found on the Linked Learning Alliance website. The College & Career Academy Support Network also has a searchable database of curriculum that aligns with Linked Learning principles, integrating academic and career themes. You can also contact the Alliance by emailing info@LinkedLearning.org or calling (916) 248-4848.
Q: My school/district is implementing and/or talking about Linked Learning. What can I do to help?
A: There are many ways to support the development of Linked Learning in your school or district. Below is a list of how to get involved:
• Set up a meeting with your principal, fellow teachers or other appropriate administrators to discuss why you think your school should adopt the Linked Learning approach.
• Start by learning more about Linked Learning at www.LinkedLearning.org and by connecting with educators already implementing the Linked Learning approach through ConnectEd Studios to discuss their experiences with Linked Learning.
• Reach out to a business or community professional to talk about Linked Learning in your schools and possible ways for them to get involved such as serving on an advisory board or providing students with work-based learning opportunities.
• Join the Linked Learning Alliance.
Q: Does it take extra training to teach Linked Learning?
A: Yes, although no formal credential is necessary. Educators who are interested in implementing Linked Learning in their classroom can receive guidance and support from Linked Learning trainings. These teacher preparation trainings are available at the following California universities:
• Claremont Graduate University
• CSU East Bay
• CSU Fresno
• CSU Long Beach
• CSU Sacramento
• CSU San Bernardino
• CSU San Diego
To sign up for a training session near you, please visit the ConnectEd website for further information. Most teachers in Linked Learning pathways love the approach and think it is well worth the extra time and effort.
Q. Does Linked Learning align with the new Common Core State Standards?
A. Yes. The framework for the Common Core State Standards is directly aligned with Linked Learning—a focus on critical thinking, analysis and applying knowledge to solve real-world problems. These skills are at the core of Linked Learning. It is important to note that schools throughout the state, including Linked Learning schools, are in various stages of transitioning to the new standards. However, schools that already implement a Linked Learning approach will face significantly fewer hurdles during the transition compared to traditional schools. By challenging students to think critically, work collaboratively and solve complex problems, Linked Learning emphasizes many of the same skills the Common Core does.
Q: What support is available for Linked Learning?
A: Educators will find an array of support tools through the Linked Learning Alliance’s website, www.LinkedLearning.org. The Linked Learning Alliance disseminates resources for schools and districts to implement Linked Learning and helps educators get what they need. ConnectEd, in collaboration with a growing cadre of partners, develops tools and delivers services to help districts implement high quality Linked Learning pathways and establish the district and community supports to expand and sustain Linked Learning. ConnectEd’s website at www.ConnectEdCalifornia.org also offers a rich array of information and technical support for schools implementing Linked Learning. Additionally, the College & Career Academy Support Network offers professional development, coaching, resource materials and technical assistance for educators, schools and districts that can be found on their website at http://casn.berkeley.edu.
Educator Frequently Asked Questions
A: Why do I need to know this? It’s a good question, and Linked Learning provides a meaningful answer.
Linked Learning is an approach to education that connects what you learn in the classroom with the real world. Through Linked Learning, you can work with professional adults to use what you learn in your classes to tackle real-world problems and issues you care about in a real-world setting. School becomes more interesting, and you graduate better prepared to succeed in college and career.
Q: What does Linked Learning offer that I can’t get from regular high schools?
A: Linked Learning lets you choose a high school pathway based on a career field that interests you—healthcare, engineering, performing arts, and law, just to name a few. In Linked Learning, students take classes with career-focused electives. Your teachers weave your classes together through the career theme you’re interested in. So you’re not taking math for the sake of memorizing formulas, but to use those formulas to help you design a bridge or construct a stage. Plus, Linked Learning students get exposure to the real-world via job shadowing, apprenticeships, and internships before you even leave high school.
Q: How is Linked Learning different from career technical education (CTE) and career academies or charter schools?
A: Linked Learning is defined by a central commitment to college and career success for all students, rather than tracking some students to a college path, and others to a career path. The Linked Learning approach is unique because it encompasses effective features of CTE, the flexibility of charter schools, rigorous and relevant college-prep academics, and work-based learning in the real world to prepare students for college, career, and life. Linked Learning allows students to apply classroom knowledge in real-world situations, and answers the question, “Why do I need to know this?”
Q: How will I be supported in a Linked Learning school?
A: Student success is at the core of Linked Learning. In order to ensure students have all of the support they need to excel in a Linked Learning curriculum, the following resources will be available to every student:
• Your teacher will provide you with the necessary lessons, books, and other instructional materials and academic support needed to excel in a Linked Learning pathway.
• Your teachers and counselors will help you pursue and secure work-based learning experiences inside and outside of the classroom, like an internship.
• You will meet employers and industry leaders through your internship, apprenticeship, or job shadowing program that will provide you with guidance and information on reaching your career goals beyond high school.
Q: Will my voice matter in shaping Linking Learning?
A: Every student’s voice matters in shaping Linked Learning. Students are encouraged to talk about their Linked Learning experience with teachers so the approach can improve over time. Your voice is important because it is part of a growing trend—Linked Learning is happening in high schools all across California!
A: Yes. Linked Learning prepares high school students for a full range of post-graduation opportunities and ensures that students gain both academic and professional skills, since both are necessary for a complete education and a successful future. For Linked Learning students, education is organized around industry-sector themes, which are 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.
Q: Does Linked Learning force students to choose a career or a college major while still in high school?
A: No. Linked Learning is about using real-world application and work-based learning to better understand why it’s important to be good at math, science, English, and social studies. It is not about choosing a particular career, although many students do find inspiration in their selections. Linked Learning opens doors to more opportunities for your child after high school. By gaining real-world experience and skills in California’s top industries, Linked Learning students are more employable and ready to succeed in their chosen career path, whether they go straight into the workplace or go to college first.Q: How can I get involved to help my school or district implement Linked Learning?
A: Parent support is critical to expanding Linked Learning pathways, and no effort by parents is too small. Parents are encouraged to raise their voices and aspirations for their children and to become vocal advocates for the expansion of Linked Learning. In addition to spreading the word, parents can become involved by talking to policymakers, attending local school board meetings and information sessions, and building support for Linked Learning within PTAs/PTOs and other local parent groups.
Q: What support is available to help sustain Linked Learning?
A: Support comes from everyone who is involved in Linked Learning, including students, educators, parents, community organizations, and business leaders. These groups help support and expand pathways and play a critical role in the further development of Linked Learning in schools. Organizations like the Linked Learning Alliance (www.LinkedLearning.org) and ConnectEd (www.ConnectEdCalifornia.com) help sustain and improve Linked Learning schools by providing communications support and technical assistance to schools.