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How Linked Learning Connects High School to College and Career

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March 28, 2017 10:18 am


Paola, a first-generation Guatemalan, was raised in a single-family household in Los Angeles. In middle school, Paola’s coursework was rigorous, but something was missing–she couldn’t see a connection between what she was learning in class and the real world.

Then Paola arrived at STEM Academy of Hollywood (CA), a high school implementing Linked Learning, a comprehensive educational approach that integrates rigorous academics, high-quality career and technical education, work-based learning, and comprehensive student support services. Linked Learning prepares all students, especially those who are traditionally underserved, to graduate from high school with the skills necessary to succeed in college and a career.

STEM Academy serves a student population that is largely low-income and Latino. As part of their mentorship program with Kaiser Permanente, Paola got the real-world experience she was seeking, as she explored different areas of medicine and was mentored by a resident physician. After graduating from STEM Academy, Paola continued her education at UCLA, where she is now studying physiological sciences, and plans to go to medical school to become an OB/GYN.


The Linked Learning Transformation

STEM Academy is one of the many schools in Los Angeles Unified District (LAUSD), which adopted Linked Learning during the 2009-10 school year. Today, LAUSD serves nearly 20,000 high school students in thirty-nine Linked Learning pathways, such as biomedical and engineering. Research shows that students in Linked Learning pathways are more likely to graduate high school than their peers in traditional high school programs, and that students with low prior achievement are enrolling in four-year universities at higher rates than their peers.

The impact can be seen at the school level as well. Before Linked Learning, Paul Hirsch, principal of STEM Academy, was combing through the school budget, looking for additional funding for more security guards to prevent fighting that seemed to break out every day. With graduation rates in the low sixties, the school was losing close to forty percent of students to the streets.

Now, the dropout rate at STEM Academy has been reduced and the college-going rates are going up. But most importantly, students are engaging in learning. And the icing on the cake? The funding that the school was going to use for security guards is now being used for lab equipment.

Watch Paola tell her Linked Learning story in the video below.

To learn more about Linked Learning, visit

Economic Impacts

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Every Child a Graduate. Every Child Prepared for Life.