Linked Learning is working in a variety of venues across California: the approach has already been proven in in high schools and districts, and today new partnerships are forming to connect Linked Learning to community colleges, and other postsecondary institutions. The growing Linked Learning field also now includes community-based organizations that serve out-of-school youth who are looking to re-engage in education. These efforts accelerate as more students, families, and educators experience Linked Learning firsthand, and as the results of their successes reach leaders in education, industry, and civic life.
Field leaders championing the Linked Learning vision include the Linked Learning Alliance, National Academy Foundation (NAF), ConnectEd, and many others. The vision is anchored in the aspiration that a majority of California’s students — and specifically those underrepresented in college and in living-wage jobs — participate in Linked Learning.
Through this vision, members of the field are joining together to:
Build demand for Linked Learning among school districts, postsecondary institutions, and employers
Improve the model and quality of Linked Learning in practice
Support the field’s continued growth and success
Irvine remains part of an increasingly vibrant Linked Learning field, as we focus on our dual goals of expanding economic and political opportunity for California families and young people who are working but struggling with poverty. As the Foundation’s role in the Linked Learning field evolves, we currently emphasize:
Expanding Linked Learning at the regional level. In partnership with Jobs for the Future, we are funding four regions with interest and potential to elevate, connect, and sustain Linked Learning across districts, postsecondary institutions, businesses, and other partners in a shared geography. Those regions are the East Bay, Tulare-Kings, Long Beach, and San Bernardino. Irvine’s work to advance Linked Learning in regions complements our investments to improve student transitions from high school to postsecondary institutions.
Sharing knowledge about Linked Learning. We continue to invest in communicating evidence as well as effective practices drawn from multi-year evaluation of Linked Learning, and to encourage the use of communications resources created for the field.
Since 2006, our grantees and partners have expanded Linked Learning from a small demonstration in a few high schools to pilot Linked Learning in nine districts across the state, and then to a rapidly growing movement to fundamentally transform high school in scores of districts serving hundreds of thousands of California youth.
Beginning in 2006, Irvine supported a network of 16 high schools, occupational programs, and nonprofits providing key components of Linked Learning. This demonstration was led by ConnectEd. Early evaluations showed that, compared to statewide averages, students in these programs had higher graduation rates and better pass rates on the California High School Exit Exam.
Starting in 2009, a growing field of educators, community groups, and other partners have been working together to make Linked Learning available to youth across the state, whether they are in high school, moving on to postsecondary education, or no longer participating in formal education. These efforts have taken several approaches:
Strengthening school districts — Launched in 2009, the Irvine-funded California Linked Learning District Initiative was implemented over seven years within nine California school districts that, together, served 14 percent of the state’s public high school students (including a high percentage of low-income youth of color, within rural and urban geographies). Findings demonstrated the value of a systemic approach to Linked Learning, and generated key outcomes and lessons that continue to shape Linked Learning policy and practice.
Connecting through colleges — Community colleges and the California State University system are exploring how Linked Learning can increase relevance and achievement in the classroom.
Re-engaging out-of-school-youth — The Opportunity Links for Youth Initiative applied Linked Learning to re-engage those who are no longer in school, who are underemployed or unemployed, and who are actively seeking a way into college.
With mounting evidence that Linked Learning helps students graduate and prepare for success in college and career, the California Department of Education offered assistance to local education agencies that launch Linked Learning programs.
Sixty-three districts and county offices of education were selected to participate in the Linked Learning Pilot Program, together serving more than 600,000 public high school students — 30 percent of California’s total. The state legislature also established a $500 million California Career Pathways Trust. This major investment encouraged regional partnerships between schools and industry, and boosted and affirmed the value of work-based learning (a core Linked Learning element).
With the help of anchor organizations in our four focus regions, new connections are forming between districts, postsecondary institutions, businesses, and other partners in a shared geography. We see opportunity for all partners in a given region to be active and united in delivering the benefits of Linked Learning to more students.
We are also following the student from high school to postsecondary, and want to help all students transition smoothly from high school graduation to college entry. We recognize the challenges involved with this transition, and have published a set of factors and a framework that institutions can use to help students bridge the gap successfully.
This work is complemented by making select investments to help ensure that the field has a solid infrastructure that supports expansion of Linked Learning quality and scale in coming years.
Established by Irvine in 2006, ConnectEd partners with school, district, and community leaders to transform education through Linked Learning pathways. ConnectEd serves as a hub for innovative practice, policy, and research to expand the number of education pathways that prepare students for both college and career. ConnectEd is also committed to building state, regional, and local capacity to help realize significant progress by 2020 toward statewide Linked Learning adoption.
The National Academy Foundation (NAF) is a national network of education, business, and community leaders who work together to ensure high school students are college, career, and future ready. NAF provides technical assistance, professional development, and curriculum in five industry sectors: Finance, Hospitality and Tourism, Information Technology, Engineering, and Health Sciences. NAF also focuses on expanding quality work-based learning experiences, and increasing employer engagement and investment in college and career readiness.
Children Now is a nonpartisan umbrella research, policy development, and advocacy organization dedicated to promoting children’s health, education, and well-being in California. Children Now supports and connects thousands of groups in California to create an unprecedented power base for kids. Its work includes ensuring a coherent K-12 accountability system is adopted to promote college and career readiness while integrating education policy efforts.
The Linked Learning Alliance is a statewide coalition of education, industry, and community organizations dedicated to improving California’s high schools and preparing students for success in college, career, and life. Established in May 2008 by Irvine, and now an independent nonprofit, the Alliance is building a collective voice and coordinating efforts to expand access to Linked Learning in California. Multiple materials to help foster the implementation and expansion of the Linked Learning approach are available on their website.