California Linked Learning District Initiative Print E-mail


To develop and implement systems of Linked Learning at California public school districts and to provide evidence of their impact on student outcomes.

Initiative Description

The California Linked Learning District Initiative launched in 2009 to help California school districts develop and implement plans for expanding the Linked Learning approach (formerly known as multiple pathways) in their high schools. This initiative is supporting nine districts to develop systems of Linked Learning pathways that offer students a full range of career pathway options. In addition to grant resources, the Foundation is supporting a suite of technical assistance and coaching to assist districts in this effort. High school enrollment in these districts ranges from nearly 5,000 to 200,000 students. Collectively, they serve more than 315,000 of the roughly 2 million high school students enrolled in California public schools. More information about this district initiative, including a list of implementation districts, is available.

The initiative is managed by ConnectEd, an independent nonprofit organization established in 2006 by the Irvine Foundation to advance Linked Learning as a promising approach to reforming California’s high school systems. ConnectEd serves as a hub for innovative practice, policy and research to expand the number of educational pathways that prepare students for both college and career. The district initiative is also supported by a number of other key organizations.


The evaluation of the California Linked Learning District Initiative is being conducted by researchers at SRI International’s Center for Education Policy. This evaluation is providing evidence about the impact that the Linked Learning approach has on student outcomes, and is being shared with education policymakers and the broader education community. The design and implementation of this evaluation is being closely coordinated with ConnectEd in order to ensure that findings help inform the implementation of the district initiative. The evaluation was also informed by the earlier evaluation of the ConnectEd Network of Schools.


The primary objectives for this evaluation are:

  1. Assess the impact of Linked Learning pathways on student outcomes
  2. Assess the key features and outcomes of a district-wide approach to Linked Learning
  3. Assess the level and quality of implementation in each district
  4. Provide the Foundation, ConnectEd and participating districts with data and information that supports ongoing program improvement

Time frame:

2009 – 2015

Participating Grantees:

The evaluation focuses on the nine districts that received implementation grants:

  • Antioch Unified School District
  • Local District 4 of the Los Angeles Unified School District
  • Long Beach Unified School District
  • Montebello Unified School District
  • Oakland Unified School District
  • Pasadena Unified School District
  • Porterville Unified School District
  • Sacramento City Unified School District
  • West Contra Costa Unified School District

Districts participating in the California Linked Learning District Initiative have high school enrollments ranging from nearly 5,000 to 200,000 students. Collectively, they serve more than 315,000 of the roughly 2 million high school students enrolled in California public schools. These school districts have below-average student achievement; 75% of students are non-white and 50% are socioeconomically disadvantaged.


This evaluation takes a rigorous approach to build evidence for policymakers and stakeholders about the effectiveness of Linked Learning. Quantitative data analyzed in this evaluation focus on student achievement outcomes and utilize statistical methods to address selection bias issues. Qualitative data collection provides information about the quality of implementation, highlighting the key features of systemically implementing Linked Learning across an entire district and identifying which of those lead to better student outcomes. This evaluation also examines indicators of student preparedness for careers by tracking technical curriculum and through student surveys. SRI provides ongoing reports to the Irvine Foundation and ConnectEd to inform program improvement.


Evaluation indicates that students participating in Linked Learning are on track for high school graduation, preparing for college and building skills for career and life. For example, students enrolled in certified pathways are accumulating an average of 6.6 more credits than students in traditional programs, and are 8.9 percentage points more likely to be on track with a–g requirements at the end of 10th grade. These findings control for student background in ways that other comparisons have not. These data are significant as completion of the a-g course requirements with a grade of C or better makes students eligible to attend a four-year public university in California. Students in Linked Learning pathways also report improvements in a range of skills that can help them be successful in school and in life.

Evaluation also shows that all nine participating districts have committed to Linked Learning as their primary high school reform strategy.

These and other findings from an evaluation of the initiative’s fourth year are available in a newly updated interactive infographic. Download the executive summary, the research brief or a full evaluation report.

Youth Linked Learning interactive infographic

Read an earlier summary of the evaluation on the 2010-2011 school year. We will continue publishing evaluations through the conclusion of this initiative.

Related Materials:


Nancy Adelman, Ed.D.
Associate Director
Center for Education Policy
SRI International