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Linked Learning 101 Day 2 Recap and Next Up

October 15, 2020 | Dan Storz

Day 2 of Linked Learning 101 pushed our thinking in important ways by focusing on the core conditions and systems that underpin highly impactful Linked Learning practice.

The workshop kicked off with a history lesson on the Linked Learning movement and how the approach was designed to advance equity through integrated college and career preparation. As participants learned, historically, far too many young people faced an “OR” at some point in their high school career. They were deemed to be college material, or not. They were encouraged to study for college or train for a trade. But independent research on Linked Learning shows that real educational solutions—and equity—exist in the “AND.” It’s the “AND” that unites college and career curricula to ready all youth for a full range of postsecondary options.

Next, participants heard from Dr. Dale Marsden, the former superintendent of San Bernardino City Unified School District. Dr. Marsden has been instrumental in transforming local education and workforce systems to join forces in support of young people and their aspirations for both college and career. Dr. Marsden highlighted San Bernardino City Unified’s Linked Learning journey. His story reminded participants that Linked Learning implementation varies from district to district and hinges on local context, stakeholder engagement, and a community wide vision.

The majority of our time together was devoted to breakout groups where session participants had the opportunity to learn about the various paths Linked Learning district and school leaders have pursued to integrate and expand college and career preparation. District and school presentations focused on the systems, structures, and conditions needed to create impactful Linked Learning experiences and student success.

For example, the superintendent of Long Beach Unified School District, Dr. Jill Baker, described the district’s work with Linked Learning over the past decade as a “journey” that takes “patience and persistence.” She noted that as a wall-to-wall Linked Learning district, Long Beach Unified allocates resources for pathways (including incentives for certification) and has created a district organizational structure to support Linked Learning at the school level. Linked Learning is the center of the district’s instructional approach, and the Linked Learning certification process is recognized by the district as a lever for continuous improvement. As Dr. Jay Camerino, Assistant Superintendent of High Schools, shared, “Certification is not a district mandate - it’s an equity mandate.” Key to the success of Linked Learning in Long Beach is the inclusion of Linked Learning in the strategic plan, which brings coherence and alignment from the district to the schools to the pathways. Renee Shipman, Vice Principal at Wilson High School, concluded the session by describing the process by which her comprehensive high school transitioned to five Linked Learning pathways over the past four years, and the critical role of the pathway triad—a site administrator, lead teacher, and counselor—in co-leading each pathway.

Administrators from Oakland Unified School District, Lucia Moritz, Executive Director, College and Career Readiness and Rebecca Lacocque, Linked Learning Director, shared the story of Oakland’s journey to wall-to-wall Linked Learning pathways. Like Long Beach Unified, Oakland has made shifts in its district administrative structures to better align with their Linked Learning goals. They talked about the systemic nature of their efforts to build strong relationships in the community with local industry, postsecondary partners, and community-based organizations, how they braid funding to align with their goals, and how they offer schools work-based learning and instructional coaching to achieve those goals. They have developed a comprehensive data dashboard that they use to support their current focus on building quality with equity across the system.

Los Angeles Unified School District educators helped participants understand the district’s approach to on-boarding new pathways and supporting pathway development and continuous improvement. The Linked Learning director shared the district's developmental benchmark tool that pathway teams can use to self-assess and create improvement goals based on the Linked Learning certification standards and the district specific benchmarks.

Representatives from Porterville Unified School District, a rural district, shared the approach they have taken to reach and inform all middle schoolers of pathway opportunities. Porterville had previously held one large in-person showcase in a local theater but transitioned to a virtual showcase due to COVID-19. Presenters also shared the great successes of their pathway students. The district has instituted a “no screener” lottery-based pathway admissions policy, and has found that under this policy, pathway students perform as well as or better than non-pathway students. Educators also discussed how their district was better prepared than most for the shift to distance learning; given their more rural location, they already had experience engaging community and industry partners through virtual opportunities.

Finally, educators from Eastside High School in Antelope Valley Union High School District described their commitment to creating a culture of success that gives students the skills they need to positively impact their communities. For example, the Education and Social Service Careers Academy (ESSCA) has a goal to prepare students to become teachers and counselors who will return and serve in their community and be role models to the next generation of learners. Students who ultimately do return join the ranks of others that came before them: Eastside has seven former graduates who are current teachers, and all administrators and an additional 30 teachers are former graduates of the district.

To wrap up our time at LL 101, we were excited to share a host of new tools to support participants’ efforts to both implement and continuously improve Linked Learning pathways. During our discussion, we explored the potential of these resources, including a self-study tool and action planning template, to assess pathway readiness, deepen student engagement and learning, and provide more equitable access to college and career readiness opportunities. We were thrilled to share these new resources and start a conversation about the possibilities the tools open up with all of the forward-thinking educators at the session.

The Alliance team is grateful to all who were engaged in the inaugural Professional Learning Series: Linked Learning 101. We gained an incredible amount of knowledge and expertise that we look forward to sharing with educators and industry partners across the Linked Learning field. Our team loved seeing all of the new connections among passionate education leaders and can’t wait to see you at future Alliance professional development opportunities!