Skip to content

Progress and Promise: The Expanding Linked Learning Field

 Elizabeth Gonzalez

Elizabeth Gonzalez, Former Portfolio Director

A decade of achievement — with more to come

As Irvine continues to transition our role with Linked Learning, we feel immense pride in the progress this field has made over the past decade, including in 2017. And we are excited about what’s to come.

The California Linked Learning District Initiative launched in 2008. Nine districts and their partners formed the beginnings of what today is a vibrant field. Linked Learning is proving its relevance as federal education policy undergoes dramatic change, workforce development grows as a priority in communities, and equity becomes a north star for many decision-makers.

Linked Learning is effective. An evaluation by SRI Education, conducted across seven years through the District Initiative, showed that Linked Learning’s approach works for all students — and especially for students who are underperforming as they enter high school.

These outcomes have attracted investment and fueled expansion of the field. The State of California has allocated more than $2 billion to advance this approach through the Career Pathways Trust and the Career Technical Education Incentive Grant. Dozens of California districts are now implementing Linked Learning in partnership with local employers, and increasingly in tandem with area colleges. Linked Learning is also taking root in six additional states as well as internationally.

In early February, the Linked Learning Convention in Anaheim will gather hundreds of district and school leaders, business partners, public policymakers, researchers, and others with interest in preparing students for college and career success. I hope to see you there, and I especially look forward to talking with other funders who are active with, or considering support for, the Linked Learning field. It’s a time for all of us to reflect on the progress and lessons gained over 10 years, and to prepare for sustained expansion and quality in implementation of Linked Learning pathways.

Improved systems, new knowledge

This year has featured important steps in the evolution of the Linked Learning field. As the approach spreads, commitment to its core components is crucial to improving student outcomes. That’s why the Linked Learning Alliance has launched certification and analytics platforms to support pathways everywhere. These web-based tools help ensure that the dramatic increase in Linked Learning’s scale is accompanied by a commitment to quality.

The body of Linked Learning knowledge and support for practice continues to expand as well. Publications of note in 2017 include:

These products draw on the comprehensive, multi-year evaluation of the California Linked Learning District Initiative conducted by SRI. We invite you to read the SRI year-seven report, and to visit the Alliance website for other resources on the effectiveness of high-quality pathways.

All who are interested in the remarkable story of the field should view and share the updated Linked Learning in Motion. This interactive communication overviews progress, summarizes data on student outcomes, features voices of participants, and includes information on many other dimensions in the growth of Linked Learning.

Irvine’s move from center stage, and concluding grants

The James Irvine Foundation is an advocate for Linked Learning. We believe in this approach as a practical, powerful, and scalable education reform that can benefit all students.

For that reason, we are being thoughtful about our transition from a central role in building the Linked Learning field. This transition has always been part of our strategy, and it began in earnest last year as our Foundation shifted its focus to expanding opportunity for California’s families and young adults who are working but struggling with poverty.

This year and next represent continued Irvine investment in our Linked Learning partners who are steadily elevating the field’s systems of quality. This set of leaders includes ConnectEdNAFCenter for Powerful Public SchoolsSRI Education, and the Linked Learning Alliance.

We salute these and other leaders in the field. In particular, we want to acknowledge the Alliance’s important, continuing role in providing governance and coordination through the Linked Learning board of directors and related panels and councils.

In 2018, we will conclude our work with partners in four California regions who are advancing deeper connections that support student transitions from high school to college and career. These Regional Hubs of Excellence are making strides and building networks that will serve their young people and communities in ongoing ways.

At a time when the Linked Learning approach is earning notice and wider adoption, Irvine hopes that our decade of funding and lessons learned set the stage for others to champion and propel this work to new levels. We welcome conversations with all who have interest in the future of this approach and its dynamic, diverse field.

As we complete our investments in core Linked Learning infrastructure in 2018, including additional SRI research, we are pleased to share updates via this blog — and to continue collaboration with the people and organizations advancing Linked Learning. On that note, I look forward to seeing you in Anaheim!

Elizabeth González,

Portfolio Director