Developing and implementing system-wide Linked Learning practice in high school districts and providing evidence of its impact on student achievement.
The Linked Learning high school experience helps young students learn what they love and get on track for postsecondary education. Most of the youth we intend to benefit are currently enrolled in high school, making this a key venue for the delivery of Linked Learning.
Irvine’s early investments in Linked Learning began in 2006 and were designed to demonstrate and evaluate this approach within individual high schools. Based on signs of success at the individual school level, as well as growing awareness that reaching low-income students and addressing inequity in education requires a more systemic approach, in 2009 Irvine launched the California Linked Learning District Initiative.
As our largest single initiative ever, this multiyear commitment supports implementation of Linked Learning in nine districts. Collectively, these districts serve more than 115,000 youth, or nearly 6 percent of California’s 2 million high school students. They represent a variety of geographies and population sizes, and the students in these districts are predominantly non-white and socio-economically disadvantaged.
The District Initiative is designed to offer these students full access to a range of career pathway options, with an expectation that improved academic performance and high school graduation and college attendance rates will result. The initiative also serves as a vehicle for Irvine and our partners to refine Linked Learning implementation, to determine what makes Linked Learning successful at a systemic level and to further demonstrate the viability of Linked Learning as a comprehensive approach for high school reform.
Participants and Partners
The following school districts are participating in the initiative:
The initiative team includes these supporting organizations:
ConnectEd: The California Center for College and Career, established by The James Irvine Foundation in 2006, directs the District Initiative and provides technical assistance and coaching to each district.
The Los Angeles Small Schools Center is taking on aspects of ConnectEd’s role with participating districts in southern California.
The Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education partners with ConnectEd to offer a district and a pathway leadership series, which involves annual summer institutes and leadership sessions through the school year.
San Diego State University’s School of Education is focusing on teacher training and professional development.
The Career Academy Support Network is building capacity for pathway leadership teams and supported the pathway quality review and certification process.
The National Academy Foundation is developing math curricula and supported the pathway quality review and certification process.
In addition, the initiative benefits from the active participation of these organizations:
Measuring Impact, Sharing Results
Design of the District Initiative was informed by research conducted on high school programs that employ a Linked Learning approach in California Partnership Academies and career academies, including evaluation of the ConnectEd Network of Schools — a group of 16 Linked Learning sites across California.
An important intent of the District Initiative is to provide deeper evidence that a Linked Learning approach will engage students in high school, improve academic achievement and prepare students for both college and career. Accordingly, a rigorous evaluation of the initiative is being conducted by SRI International to measure its impact on student outcomes, and findings will be shared with educators and policymakers.
The Year-Two Evaluation Executive Summary reports that all nine districts are on their way toward the goal of developing systems to support and sustain Linked Learning. District leaders have internalized and become invested in the Linked Learning approach, and it is integral to their vision for high school reform. Students are engaged in this approach and have high expectations for their schools and themselves. Evaluation also points to areas of continued focus for districts, schools and technical assistance providers as the full potential of Linked Learning is pursued.