Evidence of Effectiveness

The success of Linked Learning is fueled by studies that test its effectiveness, document its outcomes, and inform its practitioners.

An evaluation by SRI Education, conducted across seven years through the California Linked Learning District Initiative, shows that Linked Learning’s approach works for all students— and especially for students who are underperforming as they enter high school. This is particularly true for students who are underperforming as they enter high school.

This evaluation provides critical insight into the impact Linked Learning has on student success, most notably for students participating in high-quality, certified pathways. Lessons learned are being put into practice as Linked Learning expands to reach and benefit more students, with particular emphasis on supporting and incentivizing high-quality Linked Learning with Certification practices and use of Analytics.

Additionally, these outcomes have attracted investment and fueled expansion of the field. The State of California has allocated more than $2 billion to advance this approach through the Career Pathways Trust and the Career Technical Education Incentive Grant. Dozens of California districts are now implementing Linked Learning in partnership with local employers, and increasingly in tandem with area colleges. Linked Learning is also taking root in multiple states across the U.S. as well as internationally.

Snapshot of Key Outcomes

This snapshot provides an overview of the state of Linked Learning in California and the exciting path ahead to prepare all students for success in college and career.
View Linked Learning in Motion >>


The Linked Learning Advantage
See how Linked Learning is transforming the lives of students.
View Linked Learning Fact Sheet >>

Research and Reports

While there is still more research to be completed, it is clear that the Linked Learning approach, when well-designed and implemented, can produce substantial learning benefits for many of California’s high school students, including some of the most under-served students. Below is a list of reports that highlight the effectiveness of the Linked Learning approach.

Linked Learning and Postsecondary Transitions
SRI Education
October 2017
In this brief, we provide estimates of the effect of Linked Learning participation on students’ likelihood of enrolling in college and persisting into a second year, with particular attention to outcomes for specific student groups: students with low prior academic achievement; those with high prior achievement; English learners; and African-American, Latino, and female students. Because the Linked Learning approach is designed to combine rigorous academics with a career technical education sequence, these outcomes are crucial to gauging Linked Learning’s efficacy in preparing students for college as well as career. For this analysis, we rely on data from the National Student Clearinghouse, which captures enrollment in approximately 97% of all 2-year and 4-year postsecondary institutions (National Student Clearinghouse, 2017).

Preventing Dropout in Secondary Schools
What Works Clearinghouse
September 2017
What Works Clearinghouse, an investment of the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) within the U.S. Department of Education, has released a new practice guide to provide educators and administrators with evidence-based recommendations for reducing dropout rates in middle and high schools and improving high school graduation rates. The practice guide cites Linked Learning as a strategy to prevent drop outs. The practice guide provides school and district administrators, as well as members of student-support teams including school counselors, social workers, psychologists, and teachers with the best available evidence and expertise on current challenges in education, and how the recommendations can be implemented in their schools and districts.

The Linked Learning Advantage: 21st Century Skills Development
Linked Learning Alliance
September 2017
21st century skills, also known as soft skills, are necessary to succeed in today’s workforce. Yet, many employers cite that students graduate unequipped with these basic skill sets, making it challenging for both students and employers to transition from a school to work setting. Linked Learning is a solution to this challenge. Linked Learning students gain technical knowledge and skills, 21st century skills, productive dispositions and behaviors, and professionalism needed to meet modern workforce demands.

Access & Equity in Linked Learning
SRI Education
March 2017
This brief describes the successes and challenges school districts have experienced in fostering access and equity in Linked Learning pathways, examining five groups of students frequently underserved by traditional schools. Findings are drawn from an SRI Education evaluation in nine California school districts over seven years. The report also includes information on promising strategies enacted by the districts today.

Taking Stock of the California Linked Learning District Initiative Y7 (Executive Summary)
SRI Education
December 2016
Since 2006, The James Irvine Foundation has invested more than $100 million in Linked Learning, a promising approach to transforming education in California. In 2009, the Foundation launched the California Linked Learning District Initiative (“the initiative”) to demonstrate this approach in nine school districts. The multiyear evaluation of this large initiative has a twofold purpose: to document the work and distill lessons from districts that are applying Linked Learning systemically and to measure the effect of this comprehensive implementation on student outcomes. View full report.

What it takes to Create Linked Learning
SRI Education
November 2016
Full realization of the Linked Learning approach requires the support of a coherent set of school district human resource and student enrollment policies as well as infrastructure for work based learning placements. Leaders in the nine demonstration districts identified the key district-specific implementation strategies below as crucial to establishing and sustaining Linked Learning.

Equitable Access By Design
John W. Gardner Center for Youth and Their Communities
April 2016
This report proposes a conceptual framework for defining and implementing a system of integrated student supports that provides equitable access to college and career readiness via Linked Learning pathways in high schools.

Expanding Access, Creating Options: How Linked Learning Pathways Can Mitigate Barriers to College and Career Access in Schools and Districts
The Education Trust-West
March 2013
The study, conducted over two years, highlights the connection between quality implementation of Linked Learning and equity and college and career access. The key findings in this report reinforce the need for consistency in the non-negotiable elements of Linked Learning as districts strive to take this approach to scale.

A Profile of the California Partnership Academies 2009-2010
College & Career Academy Support Network (CCASN)
University of California, Berkeley
October 2011
This report highlights positive results at California Partnership Academies (CPAs). Many of these CPAs are also part of Linked Learning. Click here to view executive summary.

Unlocking Doors and Expanding Opportunity: Moving Beyond the Limiting Reality of College and Career Readiness in California High Schools

The Education Trust-West
July 2011
To meet California’s demand for a more educated workforce, high schools must dramatically increase the number of students who graduate and graduate with the skills and knowledge they need to success in college and career. Yet disturbingly, few students graduate with the college-ready coursework needed to access our state’s public university system. This is especially true for low-income students and students of color, who are also disproportionately tracked into less rigorous “career education” courses. This report highlights these troubling trends and calls for a more integrated and equitable approach to college and career preparation—so that high school serves to open doors to both college and career options for all tudents. View Interview with Arun Ramanathan, executive director, Education Trust-West.

Can California Compete? Reducing the Skills Gap and Creating a Skilled Workforce through Linked Learning
America’s Edge
May 2011
According to this report, nearly half (47 percent) of California jobs are in “middle skills” occupations require education beyond a high school diploma, but less than a 4-year college degree. The report estimates that only 38 percent of California workers have the skills to fill these positions, creating a nearly 10-percent skills gap. When coupled with a shortage of workers with science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills, business leaders are voicing concern about California’s competitive viability in a global marketplace.

Pathways to Prosperity: Meeting the Challenge of Preparing Young Americans for the 21st Century
Pathways to Prosperity Project, Harvard Graduate School of Education
February 2011
This report finds that the U.S. strategy for education and youth development in previous decades has been too narrowly focused on an academic, classroom-based approach, and that this has produced only incremental gains in achievement and attainment. In response, the report advances a vision for how the United States might regain the leadership in educational attainment it held for over a century, advocating for the development of a comprehensive pathways network to serve youth in high school and beyond.

A Model for Success: CART’s Linked Learning Program Increases College Enrollment
The Center for Advanced Research and Technology
January 2011
When rigorous academics are combined with demanding career-based learning in real-world professional workplaces, students are better prepared to succeed in college, career and life. Embracing the Linked Learning model, the Center for Advanced Research and Technology—a high school in Clovis, California—released data that demonstrates how combining rigorous academics and real-world learning opportunities can lead to a higher percentage of enrollments in both community college and four-year universities. In particular, the study finds that attendance in a Linked Learning pathway more than doubled the rate of college entrance for minority students.

The Underserved Third: How Our Educational Structures Populate an Educational Underclass
University of Arizona
Johns Hopkins University
This article was published in 2012 in the Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk, after the findings were released to the general public on December 12, 2011. The article asserts the importance of ultimately dismantling dichotomous notions of ‘‘career’’ and ‘‘college’’ preparation, to expand opportunities for underserved students, and reduce inequities by preparing all students for both college and career.

Career Academies: A Proven Strategy to Prepare High School Students for College and Careers
Career Academy Support Network, University of California, Berkeley
February 2010
After more than four decades of development and three decades of evaluation, career academies have been found by a conclusive, random assignment study to be effective in improving outcomes for students during and after high school. This report describes the growth and evolution of career academies – many of which employ the Linked Learning approach – reviews the evaluation evidence, explains how career academies reflect widely accepted principles of high school reform, and considers prospects for the future.

Career Academies: Long-Term Impacts on Labor Market Outcomes, Educational Attainment, and Transitions to Adulthood
June 2008
Rigorous academics integrated with career-based learning can lead to higher wages after high school. This study examines the outcomes of 1,700 students enrolled in career academies that offered the Linked Learning approach to predominantly minority students. The study showed that four years after graduation from high school, career academy graduates were earning more than their traditionally educated counterparts. While this was true for both men and women, the result was statistically significant for men in a Linked Learning pathway, who earned 18 percent ($10,000) more over the four-year period after high school.

Evidence from California Partnership Academies: One Model of Pathways
ConnectEd: The California Center for College and Career
May 2008
This study describes three key pieces of evidence supporting adoption of the Linked Learning approach. Those attending California Partnership Academies had better California High School Exit Exam pass rates, completed more rigorous courses, and had better high school graduation rates. Operating in more than 300 high schools, California Partnership Academies are one model of Linked Learning pathways.

A Profile of The California Partnership Academies 2004 – 2005
ConnectEd: The California Center for College and Career
Career Academy Support Network, University of California, Berkeley
March 2007
This report shows that schools utilizing a Linked Learning approach have achieved higher graduation rates and exit exam passing rates, with a greater percentage of students eligible for California State University (CSU) or University of California (UC) universities. Researchers found that 50 percent of students in California Partnership Academies completed the “A – G” requirements needed to be eligible for admission to California’s public universities – compared with only 39 percent of graduates statewide. More than 70 percent of the academies’ African-American students passed the math portion of the California High School Exit Exam, compared with 55 percent of African-American high school students in the state. Furthermore, 96 percent of academy seniors graduated, compared with 87 percent statewide.

California Regional Occupational Centers and Programs: 2006 Longitudinal Study
School Improvement Research Group, University of California, Riverside
October 2006
Even without an integrated curriculum, students simply taking both rigorous academics and technical curriculum may have lower dropout rates and better achievement gains than comparison groups of students. This study examines data on more than 4,000 students, and found that those in California Regional Occupational Centers and Programs (ROCPs) improved their grade point averages more than comparison students enrolled in non–Career and Technical Education programs. ROCP students were as likely to enroll in postsecondary education and to earn higher wages. Significantly, these students were lower achieving and of lower socioeconomic status than the comparison group.

Building Academic Skills in Context: Testing the Value of Enhanced Math Learning in CTE
National Research Center for Career and Technical Education, University of Minnesota
September 2005
This study offers strong evidence that rigorous academics integrated with technical curriculum leads to higher test scores if successfully implemented. In this research, career and technical education (CTE) teachers were paired with math teachers who identified the mathematical content embedded in the CTE teachers’ subjects and developed lesson plans to teach the math within the occupational context. The 57 CTE teachers who helped develop the math–enhanced lessons were randomly assigned to classrooms and delivered the curriculum for about 10 percent of class time over the course of one year; 74 CTE teachers not participating in such development taught other classrooms with traditional instruction. The almost 3,000 enrolled students were given math pre–tests and were tested again a year later. Those taught the integrated curriculum significantly outscored the control group on two tests of math ability.