As a hub for the Linked Learning movement, the Alliance offers research, stories, and tools that help people understand the impact of Linked Learning and implement this approach at high levels of quality.
This brief is one in a series on the Linked Learning high school reform effort that focuses on preparing graduates for both college and career. This first brief will discuss achievement gaps and employment and economic trends that support the need for high schools that prepare all students for both career and college. The following briefs will be informed by interviews with members of governance teams from districts that are implementing the Linked Learning approach, and will explore how career and college preparation programs—including Regional Occupational Programs/Centers (ROP/C)—promote success for underserved and underperforming students.
The idea of linking hands-on learning with academics is not a new one. John Dewey advocated education through experience at the turn of the last century. Unfortunately, relatively few schools offer this integrated approach, typically limiting instruction to textbooks and lectures.
Yet, evidence suggests that students who engage in experiences that connect school learning to the real world are more likely to stay in school. Furthermore, such experiences increase the chances that students will be both college and career ready. Work-based learning (WBL) programs are an integral part of Linked Learning and help foster the goal of providing students with the skills they need to succeed in college and career.
This brief describes the successful elements of WBL programs and offers guidance for implementation.
This cross-case analysis draws upon case studies that examine how the California Linked Learning District Initiative (CLLDI) has played out in the Pasadena, Porterville, and Sacramento City Unified School Districts. It draws lessons from the experiences of leaders in these districts regarding the importance of reform coherence, distributed leadership, strategic planning and communication to the successful implementation of Linked Learning. Leaders in each district found in Linked Learning an answer to an important problem facing their district that also allowed them to bring greater coherence, relevance, and rigor to the daily work of both staff and students. The highly collaborative nature of Linked Learning required these districts to change and expand leadership responsibilities throughout the districts and the communities they serve. The degree of success of Linked Learning so far can be attributed in part to the ways in which leaders planned the introduction and expansion of the initiative. District leaders have identified clear, consistent, and constant communication about Linked Learning to be a critical component of their success to date.
This guide is designed to answer questions about how high schools are practicing Linked Learning, shedding light on the ways they address practical challenges, set high expectations, and adapt to changing circumstances. This guide does not provide a set of requirements or prescriptions to implement Linked Learning "the right way." Rather, it lays out in plain terms how real schools do the hard work of preparing all students for college, careers, and life beyond high school.
The study, conducted over two years, highlights the connection between quality implementation of Linked Learning and equity and college and career access. The key findings in this report reinforce the need for consistency in the non-negotiable elements of Linked Learning as districts strive to take this approach to scale.
This case study tells the story of how Sacramento City Unified School District (SCUSD) has managed to integrate Linked Learning into its own district reform through staffing, reorganizing, and building capacity within the district. The study notes some early indicators of improvement including increases in API scores and decreases in dropout rates at some SCUSD high schools.
This report examines preliminary data on student outcomes from four selected Linked Learning districts. Each of these districts focuses on pathways to college and career that meet criteria for quality certification by ConnectEd: The California Center for College and Career, the national hub for Linked Learning practice. This summary also assesses implementation progress across all nine school districts participating in this initiative, drawing on interviews, student focus groups and student surveys.
According to this report, nearly half (47 percent) of California jobs are in “middle skills” occupations that require education beyond a high school diploma, but less than a 4-year college degree. The report estimates that only 38 percent of California workers have the skills to fill these positions, creating a nearly 10 percent skills gap. When coupled with a shortage of workers with science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills, business leaders are voicing concern about California’s competitive viability in a global marketplace.
This is the story of how Pasadena Unified School District (PUSD) is creating sustainable high school reform. PUSD, through a set of district leadership practices, thoughtfully built the capacity of and sense of ownership among essential stakeholders to design, implement, and support a system of Linked Learning pathways. Though firmly anchored by the visionary leadership of a superintendent, the PUSD Linked Learning story extends to school sites, civic and industry partners, and the broader community. This story also highlights the impact that a change in leadership can have on reform efforts, the ways that ownership of an initiative can be expanded to a wider pool of key stakeholders, and how those stakeholders can increase capacity to sustain the vision and implementation of reform beyond one leader.
This case study describes how Porterville Unified School District (PUSD), a rural school district in California’s Central Valley, began to fulfill its vision to transform high school and career education through the implementation of Linked Learning. The case explains how Porterville’s district leadership team made Linked Learning the centerpiece of its district-wide reform effort and describes the key strategies the leadership team developed in collaboration with stakeholders to implement a system of pathways across five high schools.