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Celebrating Gold Certification and the Communities Making it Happen

November 21, 2019 | Rachel Zaentz

This fall has been a flurry of activity and inspiration. Over the last several weeks, the Linked Learning Alliance has traveled to Antelope Valley, Long Beach, and San Bernardino to honor the first pathways in California to earn Linked Learning Gold Certification.

The best part is being with communities as they gather to celebrate: educators, industry partners, elected officials working together on a shared future—and students buoyed by their support. In San Bernardino, one student in a newly Gold Certified Project Lead the Way Biomedical Pathway at Pacific High School said, “In my heart, I felt like for the first time in my life, someone believed in me, in what I wanted to do.”

At its heart, Linked Learning is a local community endeavor. And in local communities across our state, there is much to celebrate.

Gold certification is the highest quality bar for Linked Learning pathways, based on standards set by leaders in the Linked Learning field. Pathways achieve Gold certification by demonstrating that they are implementing Linked Learning with high fidelity and providing equitable opportunities for all students.

It was great to hear firsthand what the experience of striving for standards means to practitioners honored at these ceremonies. In Antelope Valley, Kerin Coffey, Eastside High School teacher and coordinator of the school’s Gold Certified Biomedical Science Academy put it this way: “At first glance, I was worried the process was going to be a mere checklist of items required, but soon realized the approach was going to strengthen our foundation for not only teachers, but most importantly our students.”

Several district leaders described how the framework certification provides has helped drive systemic education change. David Vierra, superintendent of Antelope Valley Union High School District said, “Linked Learning is more than an approach to learning—it’s now the way we do high school.”

When schools and districts do Linked Learning well, decisionmakers take notice. In his remarks at the Gold Certification ceremony in Long Beach, Assemblymember Patrick O’Donnell (D-Long Beach), chair of the Assembly Education Committee, said, “When schools innovate, we engage students. And that’s what Long Beach Unified School District (LBUSD) is doing through Linked Learning.” Khieem Jackson, deputy superintendent for the California Department of Education and an LBSUD alumni, reflected on Linked Learning in the context of his own experiences as a student in the district. “If they had a pathway in aerospace-engineering or physics when I was a high school student in Long Beach I would have taken it,” said Jackson, who graduated from the Academy of Mathematics and Science in 1994.

In Antelope Valley, Assemblymember Tom Lackey (R-Palmdale) highlighted the alignment between Linked Learning Certification and state education priorities: “Our state and national economies increasingly demand that people have degrees or higher-level skills. This is why the state of California is orienting public school funding and accountability policies with our goal of college and career readiness for all students.”

In addition to the 12 Gold Linked Learning pathways in California, hundreds of Silver certified pathways are today striving for Gold. We’re all working together toward the goal of one million young people in Gold certified Linked Learning pathways by 2030. Thanks to these exemplars and their steadfast pursuit of quality, we are well on our way!

Expect more to come—from these communities—and everyone they inspire.