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Why Linked Learning?

The Need for Linked Learning

**Symonds, W., Schwartz, R.B., & Ferguson, R. (2011, February). Pathways to prosperity: Meeting the challenges of preparing young Americans for the 21st century. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Graduate School of Education. Available at h

This report argues that American students do not have the skills necessary to compete in a 21st century job market. The authors describe vocational education programs in other countries, using them as promising examples of how vocational education can be integrated into mainstream education to help young people stay engaged in school and gain necessary skills through work-based learning. The authors suggest three strategies to address the challenge: 1) school reform should be expanded to include “multiple pathways” for students instead of a narrow “college-for-all” focus; 2) employers should become more engaged in the development and support of these pathways; and 3) as a society, the U.S. should take collective responsibility for educating young people to ensure that they are well-prepared for life after school.

Warner, L., Gates, S. L., Ortega, J, & Kiernan, M. (2011). Can California compete? Reducing the skills gap and creating a skilled workforce through Linked Learning. Washington, DC: America’s Edge. Available at

This report highlights the growing gap between the number of middle-skill jobs in California and the amount of appropriately skilled workers to fill them, especially in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Because these jobs increasingly require some form of post-secondary education, due the large number of students who either do not finish high school or graduate without meeting the entrance requirements for California’s state universities, experts predict that the workforce will be short 1 million college graduates by 2025. The authors propose Linked Learning as a strategy to keep students engaged in school, learning applied skills along with rigorous academics, and on the road to be prepared for college or career.

Overview of Linked Learning

**Rosin, M., & Frey, S. (2009, November). Multiple Pathways in California: An emerging option for high school reform. Mountain View, CA: EdSource. 

With ongoing pressure to enhance the high school experience, this article argues that Linked Learning has the potential to increase students’ access to a wide range of postsecondary opportunities by addressing a diverse range of students’ needs and goals. The authors summarize the structure and results for several models that share principles of actively engaging students in instruction, emphasizing higher-level thinking, and integrating college and career preparation for a wide range of post-graduation options. Challenges that the authors cite include needing strong relationships between schools, communities, and employers; effectively integrating academic and career/technical education; and building teacher capacity.

**Linked Learning Alliance. (2011, October). Rubric for Linked Learning pathway certification and continuous improvement. Sacramento, CA: Author. Not available online.

This rubric outlines the criteria in four areas—1) pathway design, 2) engaged learning, 3) system support, and 4) evaluation and accountability—required for a Linked Learning pathway to be certified as high-quality. The purpose of the criteria is both to guide pathway team members in designing, improving, and maintaining high-quality programs, and to expand the understanding of such programs with educational leaders, community and postsecondary partners, and policymakers.

Linked Learning in California School Districts

Stam, B. (2011, January/February). The power of real-world application. Leadership40(3)12-15. Available at

Highlighting several proven Linked Learning programs in California, this article stresses the need for systems of pathways that allow for student choice among industry themes, as well as professional development and supports for teachers. The author also introduces the California Linked Learning District Initiative, which assists nine districts in developing such systems with supports from coaches, technical assistance, and leadership development provided by ConnectEd. The author concludes by emphasizing Linked Learning’s growing exposure and support at the local, state, and federal level, and the encouraging prospects this approach holds for students.

Hoachlander, G., & Yanofsky, D. (2011, March). Making STEM real. Education Leadership, 68(6), 60-65. Available at

This brief describes how a school can apply Linked Learning to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields in order to prepare students for challenging professional and technical education in fields such as engineering, biomedical, energy, and manufacturing. The approach, outlined by the author along with concrete examples of how these elements operate in schools, includes 1) a coherently integrated curriculum of related academic and technical coursework, 2) relevant project-based instruction, 3) career- and learning-oriented workplace experiences, and 4) continuous improvement through planning, implementation, and certification.

**This document is considered a priority reading.