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K-12 Public Health Partnerships Produce Major Gains for Young People of Color

May 13, 2021 | Linked Learning Alliance

Contact: John Sasaki
Oakland Unified School District

Contact: Rachel Zaentz
Linked Learning Alliance

K-12 public health partnerships produce major gains for young people of color

New research points to critical strategies and solutions for fostering diversity and equity for the next generation of healthcare leaders through Linked Learning

Oakland, California—Students participating in seven Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) Linked Learning health pathways earned more high school credits, graduated at increased rates, and enrolled in college at higher rates than their peers in traditional high schools, according to new research from SRI Education. The findings highlight promising strategies that can be used to build a diverse pipeline of skilled health care professionals that will prove critical to COVID-19 recovery efforts.

The research draws from a long-term independent evaluation of the Oakland Health Pathways Partnership (OHPP), involving OUSD and two major public health institutions, Alameda Health System and the Alameda County Health Care Services Agency. Each year, these Linked Learning pathways, which integrate rigorous academics, technical coursework relevant to local industry, work-based learning opportunities, and student supports engage more than 1,500 OUSD students, 60 percent of whom are from low-income households.

OHPP, an innovative community-based collaboration featuring Linked Learning and supported by The Atlantic Philanthropies, carries urgent relevance in this time of triple crisis—for public health, economic stability and racial justice. In addition to boosting student outcomes, OHPP quadrupled Black male participation in health pathways. This finding represents a big step toward diversifying public health systems in California’s East Bay Area, helping ensure that caregivers better reflect the region’s population of consumers. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), despite representing approximately 13 percent of the U.S. population, Black individuals constitute only five percent of all doctors and 10 percent of nurses.

“The long-term solution to achieving a diverse, skilled talent pipeline in the health professions hinges on our community’s education system,” said Dr. Kyla Johnson-Trammell, Superintendent, OUSD. “Robust partnerships, such as OHPP, that meaningfully link public health institutions, teaching hospitals with local schools and communities are needed now more than ever to provide students with engaging, relevant learning opportunities and strengthening our local pipeline of health care professionals and leaders.”

Outcomes from Oakland’s Linked Learning pathways are, poignantly, even more important today as the East Bay and communities across the country deal with the health, economic, and education crises caused by COVID-19. Despite continued school closures the Oakland community continues to demonstrate resilience in this moment. Incredible students have successfully continued to engage in their academic coursework, as well as participate in career learning opportunities and are now engaging as incredible partners. “The Oakland Health Pathways evaluation findings arrive at a crucial moment,” said Jessica Pitt, HealthPath executive director in the Alameda Health System. “They prove the potential that lives in all young people. They highlight practices that connect youth to careers that spark passion and purpose. They pave the way for racial equity in health systems locally and across the country.”

Schools and academies adapt Linked Learning to fit their contexts. Students learn through career-themed pathways tied to local industries. Currently there are dozens of biomedical and health care-focused Linked Learning pathways across California that engage thousands of students.

“The work of Oakland partners inspires us to stand for all young people at a time of profound change and risk created by COVID-19," said Anne Stanton, CEO and president of the Linked Learning Alliance. “It challenges us to resist the urge to rush back to an educational system that fails too many students and falls short of the needs of growth industries. It calls for thoughtful re-engineering to provide engaging learning experiences that keep young people linked to their purpose and aspirations for all youth. The forward motion in Oakland, and other Linked Learning school districts, shows what is possible.”

Access the findings and lessons from SRI evaluation of Oakland Health Pathways:
Download the evaluation series overview and specific examination of student outcomes, student experiences, employer-school partnerships, and health pathways in continuation high schools.


About the Linked Learning Alliance
The Linked Learning Alliance is the engine that drives a movement to help every young person determine their own future through a proven approach to education called Linked Learning. Linked Learning integrates rigorous academics with real-world learning and strong support services to prepare students for success in college, career, and life. The Alliance helps create public will for equity and excellence in education, elevate the practice of Linked Learning across America, and advance policies that serve and support all youth.

About the Oakland Unified School District
In California’s most diverse city, Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) is dedicated to creating a learning environment where “Every Student Thrives!” More than half of our students speak a non-English language at home. And each of our 81 schools is staffed with talented individuals uniting around a common set of values: Students First, Equity, Excellence, Integrity, Cultural Responsiveness and Joy. We are committed to preparing all students for college, career and community success.

To learn more about OUSD’s Full Service Community District focused on academic achievement while serving the whole child in safe schools, please visit and follow us @OUSDnews.