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Measuring Progress, Ensuring Equity

Swann, E. (n.d.). Benchmarking analysis: Career pathway evaluation [PowerPoint presentation received directly from San Bernardino City Unified School District]. Slides 27–37, 41, 45. Hanover Research. Available at

To inform efforts to evaluate its career pathways program, San Bernardino City Unified School District commissioned this report about the practices of peer districts. This excerpt lays out metrics other districts use to evaluate their programs, including student experiences and outcomes such as enrollment, pathway completion, assessments used, and post-graduation data. Districts examined for this report also evaluate aspects of pathway design and implementation such as industry experience, qualified teachers/instruction, facilities and equipment, and articulation agreements.

Warner, M., Caspary, K., Arshan, N., Stites, R., Padilla, C., Patel, D., … Adelman, N. (2016). Taking stock of the California Linked Learning District Initiative: Seventh-year evaluation report executive summary. Available at

This executive summary highlights key findings from the multiyear evaluation of the California Linked Learning District Initiative. The study found an overall decrease in dropout rates, higher graduation rates, and more credits earned for students in certified Linked Learning pathways as compared to students in traditional high schools. Subgroup analyses also found that English learners and African American students in certified pathways, on average, earned more credit, enrolled in more college prep requirement courses, and were more likely to enroll in 4-year colleges than their peers. In other areas, however, the study team found no differences between students in certified pathways and those in traditional high schools. These included high school outcomes like grade point average, statewide assessment scores, and student engagement and success measures, as well as post-secondary transition indicators such as counseling summer preparation programs and remedial course enrollment. The executive summary concludes with seven recommendations for districts as they design and implement student pathways.

LaFors, J., & McGlawn, T. (2013). Expanding access, creating options: How Linked Learning pathways can mitigate barriers to college and career access in schools and districts. Available at

This report presents the findings from a two-year study of the Linked Learning approach in four California high schools that have been identified as high-quality, “certified” models. The authors identified several common school-wide practices that contributed to the program’s success (e.g., eliminated or mitigated high school barriers for college preparatory work, increased graduation rates). These include (1) a culture of high expectations, (2) rigorous and integrated academic and technical curriculum, (3) commitment to post-secondary readiness, (4) positive and personalized relationships and supports, (5) adult collaboration in support of the Linked Learning approach, and (6) programs and policies aligned to school goals. However, the report also highlights district-wide implementation challenges with the Linked Learning approach such as inadequate data systems and inconsistent coordination of district assessment. Lack of district-wide access to high-quality, work-based learning programs and strategic financing opportunities pose additional obstacles.

Rosen, R., & Molina, F. (2019). Practitioner perspectives on equity in career and technical education. Available at

Career and technical education (CTE) is enjoying a resurgence in popularity with policymakers and practitioners, but as CTE opportunities expand, proponents want to avoid repeating the tracking that took place with vocational education programs. Although today’s CTE initiatives attempt to offer access to middle-skill jobs in high-wage, high-demand fields, questions remain about how students are selected for participation and how they are supported to achieve desired outcomes. In spring 2019, MDRC invited practitioners from innovative CTE programs to discuss questions of equity; topics of common concern included how to define equity and how to increase equity in both access and outcomes. This policy brief summarizes the most common equity challenges raised in the discussion, along with ideas that emerged for how to address them.