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Linked Learning is a curriculum that integrates academics with a career-related pathway. It improves student engagement by connecting what students are learning to their interests and skills, to a job and a career, and to the modern workplace.
SRI International just published a report with significant if not mixed findings: Taking Stock of the California Linked Learning District Initiative. It evaluated 9 California Linked Learning programs over a five-year period.
In brief the study finds that, compared to students in traditional high school programs, students involved in Linked Learning:
- Feel more positive and engaged in school as well as challenged in their studies;
- Score higher than their peers on the English portion of the high school exit exam;
- Are more likely to graduate from high school and with more credits;
- Can see the relevance in what they are learning to the real world.
- Underserved groups—such as English learners, African Americans, and Hispanic/Latinos—perform better than similar groups in traditional high school programs.
- Girls were disproportionally both more likely to enroll in health career pathways and less likely to be found in engineering.
At the same time, students in Linked Learning did not score higher than other students on the math portion or on other standardized tests. But the researchers add that:
“Test scores are hard to affect: even if students are more engaged and complete more credits, if pathways do not deliver more rigorous instruction and better student supports than traditional high schools, pathway students are not going to perform better on standardized tests. The progress that has been made in this area is too recent to be reflected in students’ test scores. And where progress has been made, the focus of integrated projects may not be aligned closely with the content measured on the state tests. In light of these findings, Linked Learning practitioners should pay particular attention to delivering rigorous instruction to all students as they continue to expand and develop pathways.” (See “Implications” on pages 62-63 of the report.)
An Executive Summary of the report is available as well.
For more about Linked Learning in general, visit ConnectEd and the Linked Learning Alliance. For a new article by Gary Hoachlander, President of ConnectEd, on how Linked Learning enhances the teaching of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), go to this month’s issue of Educational Leadership.