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STEM Academy of Boyle Heights Becomes First Pathway in the Nation to Receive Linked Learning Gold Certification Through Virtual Review Process

October 7, 2020

Contact: Rachel Zaentz
Linked Learning Alliance

STEM Academy of Boyle Heights Becomes First Pathway in the Nation to Receive Linked Learning Gold Certification Through Virtual Review Process
Pathway recognized for reaching highest standards in college and career preparation

LOS ANGELES, CA — The Linked Learning Alliance is pleased to announce that STEM Academy of Boyle Heights in Los Angeles Unified School District has achieved Linked Learning Gold certification. This is a national distinction that recognizes the highest quality integrated college and career pathways for their exemplary efforts to prepare students for the full range of postsecondary opportunities.

Notably, STEM Academy of Boyle Heights is also the first Linked Learning pathway in the nation to achieve Gold certification through a virtual review process. In the past, pathways engaged in a review process that consisted of in-person school visits, interviews, and observations. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, however, the Linked Learning Alliance postponed in-person reviews this past spring. Rather than wait until schools reopened, STEM Academy of Boyle Heights remained committed to continuous improvement and persisted through the certification journey to provide students with the highest quality college and career readiness experiences. In addition to receiving Linked Learning Gold certification, STEM Academy of Boyle Heights also completed their first year as a magnet school (Boyle Heights STEM Magnet) this year.

Linked Learning pathways integrate rigorous academics with technical coursework that is relevant to the needs of local employers, offer students work-based learning experiences aligned with their classes, and provide support services to help students graduate ready for the rigors of both college and career.

“The Linked Learning framework provided us an opportunity to be cohesive,” shared Adriana Trejo, principal of STEM Academy of Boyle Heights. “Linked Learning gave students ample opportunities to collaborate and engage in meaningful educational experiences even as we pivoted to remote schooling. Ultimately, the certification process showed us that when we put each young person at the center of high-quality learning, surrounded by adults and structures dedicated to their growth, our students are able to connect their education with their dreams for the future."

Certification is based on a series of standards identified by key stakeholders engaged in Linked Learning including educators, school and district administrators, employers, and community leaders. The standards are important for improving student outcomes and preparing all students for college and career. Districts seek certification from the Linked Learning Alliance to validate the quality of their college and career pathways. Pathways gain Silver certification when they establish the core components of Linked Learning and achieve Gold certification when they demonstrate high-quality implementation of these components and equitable opportunities for all students.

“I think the most valuable part of the Gold certification process was the opportunity to reflect on our work and focus on our successes and areas for growth,” said Leo Magallon, pathway lead at STEM Academy of Boyle Heights. “It illuminated our strengths as a pathway, school, and community and how to leverage those assets in service of young people.”

Research by SRI International shows that Linked Learning benefits students in urban, rural, and suburban settings. When compared with their peers in traditional high school programs, students in high quality Linked Learning pathways complete more college preparatory courses, are less likely to drop out of high school, and are more likely to graduate within four years.

“STEM Academy of Boyle Heights is taking crucial steps in bringing forward new levels of educational persistence and achievement for all young people through Linked Learning,” said State Senator María Elena Durazo. “The workforce of tomorrow needs employers willing to shape education today. The educators and industry partners who work together to bring learning to life for Boyle Heights students are a shining example of how we all should seek to impact our communities to build a better and brighter future for California.”

Research also reveals that quality is the key to driving positive outcomes for students in certified Linked Learning pathways. The longitudinal study found statistically significant impacts for students in certified Linked Learning pathways compared with similar students in traditional high school programs; the findings did not hold for students in pathways that had not been certified.

“Our communities can only truly prosper when we harness the full potential of our young people,” said Assemblyman Miguel Santiago. “The educators, students, and community members engaged in STEM Academy of Boyle Heights are true pioneers in bringing meaning and motivation to teaching and learning. It’s an immense honor to have a school in our community receive this recognition. Especially as schools operate virtually, dedicated educators, in partnership with industry and the broader community can keep our young people on a pathway to college and career success.”

“As a daughter of the Eastside, I know this community is special – and the teachers, administrators, students, families, and community members at STEM Academy of Boyle Heights are prime examples of just that,” noted LA Unified board member Mónica García.Despite the turbulence of COVID-19, our community persisted to ensure students had access to the highest quality college and career readiness education. Teachers and administrators worked tirelessly to keep students engaged and moving forward towards their goals. I know we can expect great things from the students in this Linked Learning pathway.”

The Linked Learning approach, piloted in nine California districts a decade ago, is now embraced as the high school strategy of choice for a growing number of districts across the state. Today, Linked Learning is working in more than 100 California school districts, with over 550 pathways. The approach is also being adopted in 20 other states, including Michigan, Massachusetts, Texas, Oregon, Wisconsin, and North Carolina.

“Through Linked Learning, STEM Academy of Boyle Heights has excelled at putting the district’s vision for student growth and success into action, even amid challenging circumstances due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Lindsey Corcoran, Linked Learning Director at Los Angeles Unified School District. “We are so proud of the educators and students at STEM Academy of Boyle Heights who have worked incredibly hard to build bridges between local industry, higher education, and LA Unified to ensure students are focused on their aspirations for both college and career. It’s an absolute testament to what high school can look like when student and community needs are at the center of what we do.”

While it is still uncertain what the 2020-2021 school year will look like for California students, Gold certified Linked Learning pathways such as STEM Academy of Boyle Heights continue to ensure students have access to the highest quality educational opportunities that empower them for the future in both in-person and virtual learning settings.

“As COVID-19 disrupts education as we know it, educators, administrators, students, and families face incredible challenges. These challenges also bring an opportunity for innovation, and opportunities to recommit to our core values and belief in the capacity of young people to translate their dreams into postsecondary success,” said Anne Stanton, president and CEO of the Linked Learning Alliance. “When a pathway gets to Gold, you can see how Linked Learning ignites students’ passions.”


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.