As I walked from one hall to another on Thursday morning, I was surrounded by young men and women in scrubs. No, thankfully I wasn’t in a hospital; I was on a site visit at Arthur A. Benjamin Health Professions High School in Sacramento, California.
The scrubs students wore weren’t the only thing that distinguished Health Professions. Like many other schools in California implementing the Linked Learning high school reform approach, Health Professions has a comprehensive strategy to provide each student a personalized, rigorous, and relevant educational experience that transcends the scrubs. This strategy includes:
·Professional Learning Communities. Through professional learning communities—referred by the school as “salons”—teachers and staff at Health Professions integrate curricula across academic disciplines; combine academic and technical coursework; collaborate in creating project-based learning experiences for students; analyze data; and helpe identify and address student problems and challenges. This collaboration among teachers and staff enable each student to have more personalized and high-quality learning experiences.
·Linkages to Provide a College- and Career-Ready Education. As a certified Linked Learning pathway, the school makes necessary linkages to prepare each student for college- and- career success. Students are provided college- preparatory coursework that is aligned to California State University A-G standards; students are provided hands-on, career and technical education, and work-based learning experiences that make their learning experience relevant; and students are provided support services that address barriers standing between them and a high quality education. These opportunities help make the most important linkage, the linkage between students and their aspirations.
·Technical Education, Work Based Learning, and a 21st Century Education. Schools like Health Professions are changing perceptions of career and technical education. At Health Professions, career and technical education and work-based learning help students to: develop the knowledge and skills to succeed in the workforce and postsecondary education; provide coherent themes to deliver rigorous academic content; and provide relevance to keep students engaged and in school. The key is that Health Professions High School isn’t preparing students for healthcare careers—the school’s students graduate prepared to succeed in a range of postsecondary education and career options.
·The Role of Partnerships. Partnerships are a critical element to the success of Linked Learning pathways like Health Professions. Partnerships enable schools to fill in the gaps between the education the school is positioned to provide and the education students need to succeed. Health Professions partners are stepping up to this challenge. Business partners like Kaiser Permanente and Shriners Hospital provide students hands-on work-based and service-learning opportunities; postsecondary partners like U.C.Davis ensure students’ opportunities prepare them to make effective transitions to higher education; and community based partners help provide support services to meet other student needs. These are just some of the functions partnerships can serve. The partnershipsschools like Health Professions utilize ensure that the success of students is community-driven, not just a school-driven enterprise.
As one female student observed, “Learning is easier here.” The course requirements are no less rigorous— she had just finished a complicatedrole-playing presentation withthree other students— but she is learning by engaging in activities that interest her.
The Linked Learning strategy employed at Health Professions helpsprepare students for college and careers, not one or the other. Whether students end up trading scrubs for postsecondary graduation gowns, business suits, or some other uniform, their future will be a function of their decisions and aspirations, combined with the quality of an education process that truly engages them.
Bob Wise is the president of the Alliance for Excellent Education and former governor of West Virginia.