Innovative learning approach could boost enrollment, retention

Linked Learning incorporates four main elements, delivered through “pathways” based on one of California’s 15 major industry sectors, such as health sciences, IT, or manufacturing. The pathways are implemented in various education settings using different models, including career academies or small schools.

“In just four years, students attending one of the first nine districts to implement Linked Learning were making greater progress toward graduation and college eligibility than comparison students,” AEE explained. “Linked Learning students were earning more credits in the first two years of high school and were more likely to be on track to complete the course requirements for admission into the University of California and California State University systems, known as a-g requirements.”

The research-based elements of Linked Learning include:

1. Rigorous academics: An academic core that includes college-prep English, math, science, history, and foreign language courses for all students.

For example, higher education institutions such as California State University, Fresno, and Porterville College have formed partnerships with Porterville Unified School District to put in place a credentialing process for teachers that will take on teaching assignments in Linked Learning pathways, as well as a forthcoming dual enrollment program to provide an opportunity for Linked Learning students to graduate from high school having completed three college courses.

Using these rigorous academics, Dozier-Libby Medical High School (DLMHS) had 96 percent of its 2012 graduating class complete the a-g course requirements—in stark contrast to the 79 percent for state averages and 66 percent for district averages.

2. Real world technical skills: A challenging career-based component of three or more courses to help students gain the knowledge and skills that will give them a head start on a successful career.

One example can be seen in the Center for Advanced Research and Technology (CART), a regional program in Clovis, Calif., that has its digital media and graphic design students “develop skills in communication and message design, including: color, typography, and design principles. Design students work on all stages of production using industry-standard software to create original products such as logos, posters, newspapers, advertisements, websites, and two-dimensional animation.”

All students at Life Academy of Health and Bioscience in Oakland are assessed on “habits of mind” (effective communication, professionalism, perspectives, evidence, logical reasoning, and analysis) and “habits of work” (focus and precision, organization, revision, cooperation, and effort) using certifications embedded into each academic course. Also, 12th grade includes a year-long senior research paper.

3. Work-based learning: A series of work-based learning opportunities that begin with mentoring and job shadowing and evolve into intensive internships, school-based enterprises, or virtual apprenticeships.

For instance, students at CART are taught by teams of educators that include business mentors who interact directly with students onsite or as part of an offsite internship experience.

Life Academy students participate in a career-focused internship in the 11th and 12th grade, an advisory program that spans four year.

4. Personalized support: Services including counseling and supplemental instruction in reading, writing, and mathematics that help student master academic and technical learning.

One example includes Harmony Magnet, part of Porterville USD, which has staff work with students to navigate the college application and financial aid processes. Harmony alumni are routinely invited to return to the high school to share their postsecondary experiences with current students and encourage them to graduate.

At Granite Hills High School, also part of Porterville, monthly workshops are run by college students to help the high school students prepare for the application process and college interviews. The workshops provide high school students with concrete examples of college success that they can relate to.

78 percent of Linked Learning students at DLMHS reported that school officials helped them to understand the college admissions process, compared to only 47 percent of students at comparison schools. 81 percent felt that DLMHS helped them develop the study skills they will need in college, and 76 percent reported that the school helped them to learn about or practice college entrance or placement exams—“challenges often cited by students trying to successfully transition from high school to college,” notes the brief.

Measurable results

According to data provided by the above mentioned schools:

  • Linked Learning students in Porterville’s Monache High School’s Multimedia Tech Academy have a postsecondary enrollment rate that is 8 percentage points higher than their peers (32 percent versus 24 percent), and a persistence rate that is 24 percentage points higher than their peers (67 percent versus 43 percent).
  • DLMHS found that 93 percent of graduates were still enrolled in postsecondary education midway through their freshman year (53 percent in a two-year program, 45 percent in a four-year program, and 2 percent in a career tech training program). In a follow-up survey of this group, students enrolled in postsecondary education reported high passage rates in their courses, the majority indicated that they were planning to return for a second year, and half had already declared a health or science major.
  • Approximately 80 percent of CART graduates go on to a four-year program, a two-year program, or a technical school.
  • Life Academy has the highest percentage of graduates (87 percent) who meet the a-g requirements in the district.

For more information on Linked Learning, individual case studies, taking the approach to scale, and supporting federal and state policy, read the full brief here.

For access to the archived webinar on Linked Learning, click here.