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Systemic Perspectives on Linked Learning

Scaling-up Linked Learning

**Stearns, R. (2011). Framework for developing a system of Linked Learning pathways. Berkeley, CA: ConnectEd: The California Center for College and Career and Career.

This document outlines key elements for school districts (and their partners) to consider in order to build the necessary infrastructure to support an effective Linked Learning approach. These areas, which are designed to support the design, implementation, and sustainability of quality pathways, fall into three main sections: (1) leadership, equity, and system alignment; (2) design and quality; and (3) operations. Providing specific suggestions within each of the three main areas, the framework emphasizes that, in order to successfully employ a system of Linked Learning pathways, the district must lead this work and ensure it is integrated systemically into instruction and district policy.

Meyer, L. (2010, August). The Linked Learning approach: Building the capacity of teachers to prepare students for college and careers. Washington, DC: Alliance for Excellent Education. Available at

This brief outlines current efforts to align teacher professional development and credentialing programs to Linked Learning, discussing how teachers must be prepared to integrate core academic and career-related curricula, collaborate with teachers from other disciplines, and develop project or work-based learning opportunities for their students. The author underscores the importance of strong support from both school and district administrators as well as involvement of teachers in leadership teams. The brief concludes with ways in which federal policy can support teachers in implementing these classroom-level Linked Learning reforms, such as supporting efforts that allow schools more scheduling flexibility or remove barriers to forging external partnerships.

Oakes, J. & Sanders, M. (2008). Beyond Tracking? Multiple Pathways of Possibility and Challenge. In J. Oakes & M. Saunders (Eds.), Beyond trackingMultiple Pathways to college, career, and civic participation (pp.251-268). Cambridge, MAHarvard Education Press. Available for purchase at

In the concluding chapter of a book that outlines the opportunities presented by Multiple Pathways, the authors revisits the history of vocational education and the promise of Multiple Pathways for integrating academic and career education. The chapter explores the challenges of bringing Multiple Pathways to scale and the need to plan for the technical, normative, and political challenges that make change in high schools so difficult. The authors argue that the success of Multiple Pathways depends on a willingness to defy and change a long-standing social hierarchy that determines academic and career success and opportunity.

School Redesign Network at Stanford University. (2010, February). Distributive leadership in district reform: A model for taking Linked Learning to scale. Stanford, CA: Author. Available at

This brief asserts that rather than treating initiatives such as Linked Learning as “add-ons,” districts should consider how management structures and resource allocation must change to support reform efforts. The brief posits that distributive leadership is essential to sustain reforms and describes how, by involving leadership from all levels, Long Beach Unified School District (LBUSD) is using distributive leadership to implement its Linked Learning Initiative. The brief outlines the systems and structures that LBUSD has developed to extend initiative leadership to school staff and industry/community leaders and concludes with a discussion of potential challenges that may arise through distributive leadership.

Costs of Implementing Linked Learning

Parsi, A., Plank, D., & Stern, D. (2010, November). Costs of California Multiple Pathway programs. Berkeley, CA: Policy Analysis for California Education. (Executive summary excerpt of complete document.) Available at

The executive summary outlines the findings from a study estimating the cost of implementing Linked Learning. By interviewing teachers, administrators, and counselors in 10 pathway sites, the researchers estimate the combined start-up and ongoing cost required to operate a Linked Learning site are approximately $1,500 per student, per year. The authors outline three ways school districts can pay for Linked Learning: (1) by reallocating resources away from other activities; (2) by inspiring teachers and other staff to volunteer their time and resources; and (3) by obtaining additional resources from donors, philanthropies, or taxpayers. Highlighting four California districts’ approaches to allocating resources, the authors stress that most California districts rely on mixed means to obtain the necessary resources.

State and Federal Level Policy

California Department of Education. (2010). Multiple Pathways to student success: Envisioning the new California high school. Sacramento CA: California Department of Education. (Executive summary excerpt of complete document.) Available at

The executive summary of a full report prepared for the California legislature presents Multiple Pathways (now referred to as Linked Learning by many educators) as a leading model for postsecondary success. The summary explores ways in which Multiple Pathways engages students in a relevant and rigorous learning environment with the ultimate goal of preparing all students for college and career. The authors outline key components of Linked Learning (including core and technical curriculum and instruction, work-based learning, and supplemental support services); essential characteristics of effective Linked Learning programs (such as informed student choice and alignment both to middle grades and to postsecondary); and options for designing Linked Learning in a district (such as deciding on the amount and focus of the pathways). The piece concludes with state policy recommendations and action items for the implementation of Linked Learning.

Linked Learning Alliance (2011, October). Policy updates. Sacramento, CA: Author. Not available online.

This document, compiled by the Linked Learning Alliance, presents a list of state and federal bills that may affect Linked Learning in California.

Brown, E.A. (2011, October 21). Legislators introduce Education for Tomorrow’s Job Act. Education Daily, 44(185).

This article details a bill introduced in both the House and Senate in October 2011 that would amend Title I funding provisions in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) to promote programs that combine academic and career technical education. The Education for Tomorrow’s Job Act would give school districts funding flexibility to implement integrated instructional strategies, and to encourage partnerships between school districts, business and community organizations, and institutions of higher education.

Fensterwald, J. (2011, September 30). UC turns career tech ed-friendly [Web log]. Available at /2011/09/30/uc-turns-career-tech-ed-friendly/

This blog entry discusses the dramatic increase in career and technical education (CTE) courses that the California State University (CSU) and the University of California (UC) now consider as satisfying requirements for admission, in part responding to pressure from legislators and high schools to take more seriously rigorous courses that incorporate real-world applications. The University of California Curriculum Integration Institute, recently signed into law, will bring together high school teachers, education experts, and UC professors to design these types of courses.

**This document is considered a priority reading.