For the past five years, SRI International has been conducting an independent evaluation of the Linked Learning District Initiative in nine participating districts.
Linked Learning integrates rigorous academics with real-world experiences. This approach aims to transform education into a personally relevant, wholly engaging experience—and open students to career and college opportunities they never imagined. Linked Learning builds on more than four decades of experience gained by California schools that combine academic and technical content to raise student achievement. It seeks to improve high school graduation rates and increase successful transitions to a full range of postsecondary education opportunities, particularly for low-income and disadvantaged youth. Linked Learning is delivered through career pathways, comprehensive programs of study that connect learning in the classroom with real-world applications outside of school.
Linked Learning success factors and new fifth-year evaluation findings are outlined in an executive summary and full report by SRI International.
- Linked Learning students report greater confidence in life and career skills than their peers. These skills are essential to success in any postsecondary endeavor, and are integral to the Common Core State Standards.
- Linked Learning students are staying in their districts through high school—an indication that they are less likely to drop out before graduation because they see the value of the Linked Learning approach. On average, students enrolled in certified pathways were 5.2 percentage points more likely to remain in their district through 12th grade compared with similar peers in traditional high school programs.
- Linked Learning students are accumulating more credits, which is critical for on-time graduation. On the whole, students in certified pathways are accumulating more credits in the 9th through 11th grades than similar peers in traditional high school programs. Plus, they are more likely than similar peers to be on track at the end of 10th grade to complete the suggested a–g requirements necessary for enrollment in a four-year public university in California.
- There are positive academic outcomes for Linked Learning students who enter high school with low achievement scores. Linked Learning students with low achievement in 8th grade outscored similar peers on key state assessments in 9th and 10th grade. They also earn more credits in the 9th and 10th grades than similar peers, indicating that Linked Learning works for these youth.
- We see continued evidence of progress in expanding and strengthening pathway implementation. Some districts are approaching a critical mass of schools and students participating in Linked Learning. District leaders remain committed to Linked Learning as their primary education reform approach; districts are pursuing a range of funding sources to support Linked Learning and are engaging in regional partnerships with businesses and community colleges.