About the Linked Learning Approach

Linked Learning is a proven, systemic approach to education that helps students prepare for college and career, grow through real work experiences, and prepare to participate in civic life.

Preparing All Students for Success

Research and experience show that real educational solutions exist in the “and.” When we combine college and career preparation, we put every student in position to pursue the full range of postsecondary options, whether trade school, college, or other credentialing programs.

Historically, the vast majority of American students have faced an “or.” At some point in their high school experience they were deemed to be college material, or not. So, they were encouraged to study for college or train for a trade.

But when college-entry coursework is separated from career technical education, the limits of each model are exacerbated. When integrated, college and career preparation reinforce each other, creating a much stronger equation with real benefits to our students, communities, and economy. That’s the power of plus—and the driving principle behind Linked Learning.

A Blend of Four Crucial Elements

Schools and academies adopt Linked Learning in ways that fit their local contexts. What they share in common is the integration of four key components:


Rigorous academics, aligned to admissions requirements for state colleges and universities.

Career technical education, delivering concrete knowledge and skills through a carefully structured sequence of courses.

Work-based learning, providing students with exposure to real-world workplaces through job shadowing, apprenticeships, internships, and more.

Comprehensive support services, including counseling and supplemental instruction in reading, writing, and math to address the individual needs.


Learning Pathways Bring it Together

Students learn through a pathway connected to a local industry sector—design, energy, agricultural science, engineering, information technology, arts and entertainment, advanced manufacturing, health care, and more.

No matter the pathway available to them, students discover that learning makes sense when there is clear connection to the real world, and the skills and mindsets they gain have relevance that transcends any given sector.

The Power of Plus

A standard of excellence and equity in education, Linked Learning affirms that:

  • All students are better served when they prepare for college and career opportunities
  • Learning is more meaningful when it combines rigorous academics and application in the real world
  • The future urgently demands that we support students as learners and people, many of whom face significant barriers to achievement

Independent evaluation shows that, compared with peers in traditional schools, Linked Learning students of all backgrounds—and especially groups historically marginalized—are more likely to stay in school, graduate on time, and develop skills employers seek for the future.

In just over a decade, Linked Learning has grown from a California experiment to a burgeoning national movement.

2008

Linked Learning Alliance launches to build field

2009

Linked Learning approach is demonstrated and refined in 9 districts

2013

State of California invests $2B in statewide Linked Learning expansion

2019

Linked Learning pathways are active across 18 states and counting

In Practice

Communities across the U.S. are implementing Linked Learning in distinctive ways that matter to their students, local employers, and the future. More than 600 pathways have registered within the Linked Learning Certification platform—which indicates their commitment to delivering high-quality Linked Learning experiences to students.

Community Spotlights

Central Valley

Ag Prep is a Linked Learning program operated by The Wonderful Company with seven high schools in the San Joaquin Valley. It connects with young people by combining their interests with the high-tech needs of the agricultural industry.

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Oakland

The Oakland Health Pathways Project is designed to improve educational and long-term employment outcomes for youth of color in Oakland, California, while expanding and diversifying the local health care workforce.

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