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LINKED LEARNING: The Educational Approach that California Schools and Districts Are Using to Prepare Students for Success in High School and Beyond

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“Linked Learning is helping to plug the leaky education pipeline in California, but one state is not enough."

Released earlier this month, two new reports from the Alliance for Excellent Education examine how an educational approach called “Linked Learning” is increasing high school graduation and college-going rates. Linked Learning combines rigorous academics, real-world technical skills, work-based learning, and personalized support to provide students with a relevant high school experience that prepares them for success in college and a career.

The first report, Linked Learning: Using Learning Time Creatively to Prepare Students for College and Career, released jointly with the Center for American Progress (CAP), examines how the Los Angeles, Oakland, Porterville, and Sacramento Unified School Districts are lengthening the school day and year and using time before school, after school, and during the summer to provide more learning time for students and teachers.

“The traditional school schedule is often inadequate to provide students with a college- and career-ready education,” said Bob Wise, president of the Alliance and former governor of West Virginia. “Approaches such as Linked Learning, however, are blurring the lines between in-school and out-of-school time by integrating strong academics centered on college preparation, demanding career-based learning, and real-world experience, ensuring that high school graduates are better prepared to succeed in the twenty-first century.”

In the report, the Alliance and CAP offer several recommendations for how schools and districts can leverage the potential of Linked Learning–style approaches and increased learning time, including giving schools greater flexibility over their master schedules, common planning time for career and technical education teachers and academic teachers, and modified funding policies that permit and encourage schools to more creatively use time.

The Alliance’s second report, Beyond High School: Efforts to Improve Postsecondary Transitions Through Linked Learning, outlines how several California schools and school districts have successfully used Linked Learning to better prepare their high school graduates for success in college—an especially positive development given that two-thirds of the nation’s jobs will require at least some postsecondary education by 2020.

“Linked Learning is helping to plug the leaky education pipeline in California, but one state is not enough,” said Wise. “Every student who is at risk of falling between the cracks deserves the opportunity to be better prepared for life after high school graduation and to have the confidence to take on more challenging academics and careers. Linked Learning can help accomplish that.”

At Dozier-Libby Medical High School (DLMHS) in Antioch, CA, 97 percent students graduated on time in 2012 compared to the state and district averages of 79 percent and 66 percent, respectively. Porterville Unified School District (PUSD) boasted a 72 percent graduation rate for its English learners that same year, 10 points higher than the state average for English learners.

Not only are students graduating from high school, they are graduating better prepared for the job market and are more likely to enter postsecondary education. The Center for Advanced Research and Technology (CART) in Clovis, CA, is comprised of 1,400 students from fifteen different area high schools attending career-focused classes, such as professional sciences and global economics. Roughly 80 percent of CART students go on to a four-year program, a two-year program, or a technical school.

Linked Learning has been especially successful in improving educational outcomes for students of color and students from low-income backgrounds. For example, at PUSD—where 79 percent of students are Hispanic and 86 percent are low-income—the graduation rate for the Class of 2012 was higher than the state average.

While Linked Learning has recently expanded to Texas and Michigan, the report offers several policy recommendations at the state and federal levels that could help this approach make a broader impact. At the state level, the report emphasizes a need for an increase in the integration of academic and career and technical courses, and a greater focus on the transition between high school and postsecondary education. At the federal level, the report asserts that federal funding from programs such as School Improvement Grants (SIG) should be made available to districts to implement Linked Learning.

Linked Learning: Using Learning Time Creatively to Prepare Students for College and Career is available at http://ampr.gs/1urgCgf.

Beyond High School: Efforts to Improve Postsecondary Transitions Through Linked Learning is available online at https://all4ed.org/reports-factsheets/BeyondHS/.

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Every Child a Graduate. Every Child Prepared for Life.