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Ask the Expert: Ace Parsi

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September 28, 2010 07:24 pm

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Last week, U.S. Representative Judy Chu (D-CA) introduced the Linked Learning Pathways Affording College and Career Success Act, which would combine rigorous college preparation with workplace experience in an effort to improve student engagement, academic achievement, and success after high school. To learn more about the bill, click here.

Ace Parsi, policy and advocacy assistant at the Alliance for Excellent Education, has been working on this issue and we recently interviewed him to learn more about the Linked Learning effort. Do you have a question about the initiative? Simply, type it in the comments section below and Ace will do his best to respond.

The term college and career ready is a popular one in today’s education policy world. How is Linked Learning unique in offering students a real world college and career ready experience?

One of the strongest elements of this approach is just its simple logic with regards to delivering a college and career ready education. College and career readiness is a term that’s thrown around far too frequently in policy circles, but Linked Learning makes it a reality.  This is primarily facilitated by the four elements of Linked Learning: academics tied to college standards, integrating academics with a career and technical education (CTE) theme, providing students with work based learning opportunities, and supplemental services that help bridge the gaps.  So if we are to say we want to prepare students for college, we have to first make sure they are getting the coursework and we are not compromising in academics.  Additionally, in order to be college and career ready, students have to be able to apply concepts they are learning to solve real problems. That’s where the integration of CTE and the provision of scaled work based learning experiences like internships, apprenticeship, and service-learning come in.  Then finally supplemental services help ensure all students regardless of where they fall with regards to being college and career ready and having the skills to succeed in this environment.

What is the role of internal and external school stakeholders in making Linked Learning programs work?

The approach involves changing roles both within and outside the school.  For example, at these schools, teachers are given more leadership responsibilities.  Specifically, these schools often have “lead teachers” who act as instructional leaders over the curriculum and the career theme.  They also are more heavily engaged in raising funds, involved with the industry and community, and focused on determining other needs for the schools.  Similarly, administrators take a greater instructional focus by coordinating a coherent experience for all students.

Beyond the school, we are seeing a recognition that this cannot simply be done with the same old players. Teachers and administrators need help in facilitating this reform. That said, community members, parents, and industry partners are more deeply engaged in not only providing students with mentorships, internships, and other applied learning experiences, but also in advising the school on instructional and curricular decisions through various advisories.

What previous research or results point to this effort being a success?

There’s a lot of evidence out there that this actually works.  ConnectEd and supporting groups like the Career Academy Support Network (CASN) have done a pretty good job in documenting the body of research in easily accessible ways.  In fact, one approach used to implement Linked Learning, career academies, has decades of research showing it can improve student academic outcomes, graduation rates, college enrollment rates, and even labor market wages.  Additionally, there’s more evidence that specific practices used in implementing Linked Learning such as the applied learning; opportunities like work-based learning and service-learning; post secondary and career counseling, and other specific practices work in delivering on the outcomes we as a nation care about.

Are there examples of this program working outside of California?

While the James Irvine Foundation support of Linked Learning in California is significant, it’s important to also acknowledge other similar work across the country. For starters, many of the elements of Linked Learning such as the integration of CTE and academics; work based learning opportunities; and industry engagement are included in the last reauthorization of Carl D. Perkins Act.  The problem is that Perkins is not set up to support more systemic reforms. Having said that, to some extent districts and states like Wyoming are using Perkins funds to support more systemic reforms and innovative CTE strategies that resemble Linked Learning.  On a district level, the school system in Louisville is doing just that in terms of leveraging Perkins and other funds to support a district wide college and career ready education.  Beyond the work of districts and states, organizations like the National Academy Foundation which supports career academies across the country and the Southern Regional Education Board’s High Schools That Work initiative are also very supportive of integrating this approach.

 

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