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April 7, 2016

The concept of Linked Learning is this — make education relevant to students and success will skyrocket. Grounded by four integrated pillars — rigorous academics, technical training, work-based learning and comprehensive support services — research shows that students exposed to Linked Learning experience higher rates of engagement and higher graduation rates compared to peers at traditional high schools.

California’s Linked Learning Alliance strives to align systems and leverage funding to bring the power of Linked Learning to more students across the state. It takes many partners, from school sites, districts and technical assistance providers, to chambers of commerce, community colleges and policy makers to make statewide Linked Learning opportunities a reality. The Linked Learning Alliance brings all those people together to be the statewide voice, specializing in policy and communication surrounding the issue. Their supportive work aims to highlight best practices for making funds stretch and ensuring the State sees the incredible impact of Linked Learning and continues funding it.

One of the biggest strengths of Linked Learning is that it is an approach, not a one size fits all program that mandates specific courses or even prerequisites as a part of its secondary education experience. Instead, it’s a guiding philosophy that encourages districts to engage their student populations and employer partners to better understand what career pathways should be offered to meet student interest  and anticipated regional economic growth. Districts decide what industry sector focus and supports need to be embedded into their curriculum to equitably prepare all students for success in college, career and life after high school.

At McClymonds High School in Oakland, an engineering academy was created in response to high drop out rates, limited support systems at home and low motivation, attendance and test scores. The curriculum connected math skills being taught in class to real-world engineering problems. The outcomes have been monumental. Students are discovering new passions and the confidence to go after their interests, even for those who didn’t fall in love with engineering as a career pathway. The academy, and other Linked Learning opportunities, give students the confidence to find their motivation and define their own dreams.

“We call this work transformative education experience and it really is. It can completely change the course of a student’s life,” says Anna Fontus, Linked Learning Policy Analyst. “Linked Learning really teaches students that they are valued as an individual and their life is 100% their own. They begin to see that they deserve the best life they ever dreamed about and are taught how to find their passion, have higher expectations for their future, and how to pursue a career in a variety of industry sectors, instead of feeling like they have a limited amount of future options.”

The Linked Learning Alliance hosts the annual Linked Learning Convention as well as Policy Convenings, webinars and more. The next Policy Convening is happening April 25 in Sacramento. Learn more at linkedlearning.org/policy-convening2016.

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