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Exploring Linked Learning in Los Angeles High Schools

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October 26, 2016 03:29 pm


Last week, two high schools in Los Angeles Unified School District opened their doors to show policymakers representing the federal government as well as local and state education leaders—the Linked Learning approach in action.

Linked Learning is an instructional approach that integrates rigorous academics, high-quality career and technical education, work-based learning, and student supports. It is aimed at preparing all students, especially those who are traditionally underserved, to graduate from high school with the skills necessary to succeed in college and a career.

Equity at the Core

Organized by the Alliance for Excellent Education and several partner organizations, including the Linked Learning Alliance; Connected Ed: The California Center for College and Career; Center for Powerful Public Schools; Jobs for the Future; and others, the day focused on equity and excellence through the Linked Learning approach with an emphasis on the practice, partners, and policies that can bring this approach to more schools in states across the country. Although Linked Learning originated in California in 2009 with nine school districts, the approach has since expanded to serve more than 65,000 students in California, and more in Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Texas, and Wisconsin.

“Not only did I see Linked Learning in action today,” said Alliance President Bob Wise during the visit, “I saw America. I saw the hard work of parents, students, educators, both teachers and administrators, joined together with business leaders working tirelessly to move students forward. The Linked Learning approach engages the whole community to make a powerful difference in the lives of students who need it most.”

Linked Learning is working to reverse the trend of too many students, particularly African American, Latino, and students from low-income families, who are failing to graduate from high school with the skills necessary to succeed.

Steve Zimmer, LAUSD board member, addressed this equity imperative during the visit, explaining that “Linked Learning is not school reform, it’s an intentional equity program. It’s about shifting the mindset of a community, and changing the way people think about what our students and families are capable of right now and in the future. The intentionality of Linked Learning is a clear message to kids, that we believe that they have the potential to be difference makers in our city and their communities.”

Linked Learning in Action

At STEM Academy of Hollywood, participants were given student-led tours through classrooms and saw STEM Academy’s Linked Learning biomedical and engineering pathways come to life. In an algebra class, biomedical and engineering students worked together, incorporating elements from both fields to analyze the arch of a foot in order to anticipate the needs of the average consumer. The engineering students focused on how a shoe would be designed based on the arch size, while the biomedical students determined what types of material would be needed to be comfortable for the wearer. Students were collaborating, thinking critically about a real-world issue, and applying their knowledge in other subjects to solve a problem. This was deeper learning at work!

STEM Academy students

STEM Academy students explain their problem-based task to Alliance President Bob Wise

At Los Angeles High School of the Arts (LAHSA), the connection between career and technical education and traditional academics was evident in every aspect of the site visit. If students were reading Macbeth in English class, they would simultaneously identify costumes within the text and make them come to life in their design courses. As students study different periods in history class, they see the fashion of each time period come to life in their design class. A quick peak behind the scenes into the workshop space showed students collaborating to create a set and costumes for the school’s theatrical production.

LAHSA students

LAHSA students collaborate in design workshop

The Student Experience

The student voice was incorporated throughout the visit to both schools. Several students shared their experience not only on tours and through direct interactions with participants, but in project-based demonstrations at both schools and also as part of a panel with post-secondary and business leaders. Ashley Ramirez, a STEM Academy class of 2016 graduate, and current freshman at University of California–Los Angeles, said “Linked Learning pushed me to step outside my box.” This sentiment was echoed by a senior at LAHSA that explained that prior to coming to LAHSA she had zero interest in costuming, but after learning to sew, costume design became her passion and she is now exploring career options in fashion.

Ashley Ramirez-STEM

Former STEM Academy student Ashley Ramirez shares her perspective on Linked Learning

Ready for the Workforce

Workforce readiness was a topic woven through many conversations during the visit. Local business leaders expressed the importance of exposing students to potential careers to expand their view of possibilities for their own futures. Across the board, business leaders emphasized the need to have a workforce that looks like the populations being served. Ashley Ramirez (pictured above) encapsulated both points when describing that during an internship experience through the school’s robust partnership with Kaiser Permanente, she noticed the lack of Latino doctors, and thus realized her passion to become a doctor to help close this gap.

Participants also had the opportunity to hear from The Honorable Maxine Waters, U.S. Representative for California’s forty-third district, who discussed the importance of high quality college and career pathways to ensure more students are both prepared for and able to enter the workforce.

Social Buzz

Throughout the day, twitter was buzzing with content from the visit. Here are some highlights:

To learn more about Linked Learning, visit  or


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Every Child a Graduate. Every Child Prepared for Life.