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Fast Forward California Will Prepare Local Schools and Communities to Make Good on Massive Golden State Pathways Investments

April 13, 2023 | Linked Learning Alliance

With $500 million in funding for Golden State Pathways and $200 million for Dual Enrollment, California is making a once-in-a-lifetime investment in students and our shared future prosperity. But ensuring these dollars result in increased college completion, meaningful employment, and equitable outcomes will require increased coherence across our education and workforce systems. To meet this moment, the Linked Learning Alliance, Career Ladders Project, and The Education Trust–West are proud to announce a new partnership: Fast Forward California.

As our communities work to recover from the pandemic, student engagement is suffering across all levels of education. Chronic absenteeism in K–12 schools is skyrocketing, and enrollment in California’s two- and four-year colleges declined significantly during the pandemic and has yet to fully recover. Existing inequities are deepening, further distancing young people from the opportunities they need and deserve to succeed in college, career, and life.

Through coordinated and sustained action, Fast Forward California will address the persistent gaps between our K–12, higher education, and workforce systems to accelerate students on the path to both college and career success.

Specifically, Fast Forward California will drive impact by:

  • Developing partnerships across sectors to build awareness, readiness, and engagement around this opportunity
  • Creating consistent, compelling, strategic communications to build understanding and buy-in within communities
  • Providing technical assistance to prepare school, district, and postsecondary leaders with the tools and skills to ensure high-quality implementation and leverage funds to the benefit of students
  • Advocating for alignment and reforms that create a more coherent learning experience and serve students meaningfully and equitably
  • Providing a framework for partnerships to measure the effectiveness of their work

“This is our golden opportunity to ensure that our education systems are acting with intention in the interest of each young person, racial justice, and the future of our workforce,” said Anne Stanton, president and CEO of the Linked Learning Alliance. “Fast Forward California builds on more than a decade of collaborative action among our organizations to proactively connect the dots across systems, reimagine the student experience, and make it more coherent, connected, and supportive.”

The three partner organizations’ far-reaching networks, robust communities of practice, and deep relationships with education and community leaders throughout California provide a critical infrastructure for Fast Forward California and help ensure the type of high-quality, on-the-ground implementation that research links to educational and economic equity for students and communities.

“Postsecondary achievement is an equity and economic imperative for California’s young people, communities, and country,” said Linda Collins, founder and executive director of the Career Ladders Project. “But positive postsecondary outcomes are not guaranteed for all students. We must be intentional about ensuring racial and social equity in college access and success. By leaning into our deep relationships and partnerships with schools, postsecondary institutions, and communities throughout California, Fast Forward California will break down silos and connect proven solutions across sectors and segments.”

Well-designed and implemented college and career pathways like those envisioned by Golden State Pathways bring rigorous academics and career technical education, work-based learning, comprehensive student supports, and accelerated college opportunities like dual enrollment together to make learning more purposeful, relevant, and engaging. Research spanning more than a decade shows that such opportunities result in decreased dropout rates, higher graduation rates, more credits earned, more college preparatory courses completed, and improved 21st century skills compared with similar peers in traditional high schools.

High-quality college and career pathways that incorporate accelerated college opportunities, such as dual enrollment, have especially positive effects for students who start high school behind academically and for students of color. Given this known benefit, it’s clear that providing these experiences at scale and ensuring they center on systemically underserved youth is imperative if we are to help close racial equity gaps.

“Inequitable, disparate systems stand in the way of our students reaching their full potential, especially across communities of color,” said Dr. Christopher J. Nellum, executive director of The Education Trust–West. “The historic investments in Golden State Pathways and dual enrollment have the power to better prepare California’s students for all the future has to offer, but we know these investments alone won’t move the needle fast enough without effective implementation and a distinct focus on ensuring both excellence and equity.”

Research clearly shows what a powerful learning experience can do in the life of a young person, and Fast Forward California will bring this advantage to more students, more communities, more effectively through greater coherence across our educational systems.

To learn more about Fast Forward California and how you can begin creating and sustaining coherence between college and career readiness efforts in your community, please join us for a Catalyzing Conversations on Coherence Webinar on April 26, 2023, 2:00 3:30 p.m. PT. Register here:

About the Partners

The Linked Learning Alliance leads a movement to connect all youth to college, career, and purpose. We partner with education systems to accelerate the adoption of high-quality Linked Learning educational pathways that engage adolescents, strengthen workforce readiness, and advance equity and economic justice. Our actions drive rigor and improvement in the Linked Learning practice, research that establishes evidence and informs learning, communications that enhance public understanding and center the voices of students and educators, and the supportive policy and resources required for success.

Career Ladders Project promotes equity-minded community college redesign. We collaborate with colleges and their partners to discover, develop, and disseminate effective practices. Our policy work, research, and direct efforts with colleges lead to system change—and enable more students to attain certificates, degrees, transfers, and career advancement.

The Education Trust–West is committed to advancing policies and practices to dismantle the racial and economic barriers embedded in the California education system. Through our research and advocacy, Ed Trust—West improves racial equity in education, engages diverse communities dedicated to education equity and justice, and increases political and public will to build an education system where students of color and multilingual learners, especially those experiencing poverty, will thrive.