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Linked Learning in California: High School Transformation in Three Districts


An ever-increasing demand for a highly educated workforce places increased pressure on school districts to prepare students for college and career success. A promising approach called Linked Learning gives districts a coherent framework to address these and other fundamental challenges facing California’s high schools, such as increasing academic achievement and learning, reducing dropout rates, and reducing the achievement gap between students from high- and low-income families. The goal of Linked Learning initiatives is to build leadership capacity, professional knowledge, and research evidence that will advance high-quality, high-equity education systems and improve policies and practices.

Three case studies examine how the California Linked Learning District Initiative has played out in different contexts in the following districts:

The intent of the individual case studies is to help superintendents, central office administrators, principals, and teachers see themselves in the experiences of another district and to illustrate to policymakers how Linked Learning plays out in different contexts. Using these districts, researchers conducted a cross-case analysis to synthesize lessons that cut across the cases to help other districts succeed in bringing Linked Learning to their schools. These lessons describe both successes and setbacks, progress made, and progress that is still needed. The experiences of these districts can provide valuable lessons to other districts about how to prepare for, launch, and scale up Linked Learning initiatives of their own.

Leaders in each district found that Linked Learning offered an answer to an important problem facing their district that also allowed them to bring greater coherence, relevance, and rigor to the daily work of both staff and students. The highly collaborative nature of Linked Learning required these districts to change and expand leadership responsibilities throughout the districts and the communities they serve. The degree of success of Linked Learning so far can be attributed in part to the ways in which leaders planned the introduction and expansion of the initiative. District leaders have identified clear, consistent, and constant communication about Linked Learning to be a critical component of their success.


Posted with permission, Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education.