Urban districts look to Linked Learning partnerships as a way to promote equity

By Nathaniel Browning, Policy and Programs Officer

Linked Learning is a relatively new term for an approach to college and career readiness that has a primary focus of equity. It integrates rigorous A-G academics with career-themed pathways, and provides students with relevant and motivating project-and work-based learning experiences that engage students. Initial student outcomes are promising, and successful implementation and sustainability of the approach requires a strong commitment to thoughtful and ongoing collaboration among districts and community stakeholders.

The Urban School Districts Luncheon, held during CSBA’s Annual Education Conference and Trade Show in San Diego, focused on veteran board member perspectives of Linked Learning implementation. The event provided an extended opportunity for governance teams, Business Affiliates, and experts from the field a chance to network and discuss how they might partner together to enhance public education within their districts.

Urban Schools Luncheon The networking portion of the event was an ideal segue into a panel discussion on the partnerships identified by panelists as vital to the implementation and ongoing sustainability of their Linked Learning approach. This year’s Urban Luncheon panel consisted of Hayley Buettner, board member from Porterville Unified School District; Joy Motts, board member from Antioch USD; John McGinnis, board member from Long Beach USD; Gary Yee, superintendent and past board member from Oakland USD; and moderator Dr. Julie Maxwell-Jolly, a CSBA Policy and Programs Officer.

Both Motts and Buettner discussed the importance of business partnerships as a successful element to their districts’ success with work-based learning. Both said those partnerships also provide guidance and general direction to the district on the approach. Motts stressed the value of engaging with small local businesses within their community in order to develop key connections for the success of their program. This community buy-in helps provide students with greater options for work-based learning experiences.

CSBA Executive Director Vernon M. Billy listens to CTB McGraw-Hill representative Gary Costley, one of dozens who met together to share ideas for linking schools with community business partners at the Urban Schools Luncheon on Dec. 5.

Buettner shared how Porterville USD developed a P8 Coalition that consists of representatives from industry, postsecondary, community-based organizations, and educators. The P8 Coalition provides input to the superintendent and school board on future and current pathway programs, curriculum, student recruitment, budgeting, and other elements related to the Linked Learning approach.

McGinnis discussed the importance of offering business partnerships multiple opportunities to showcase them through the use of district resources instead of merely pleading to the altruistic tendencies those companies may possess. He said that districts must be intentional in the manner they promote business partner logos on websites, newsletters, community events, and other ways.

Urban Schools Luncheon panelists


Yee spoke about the importance of partnering with local colleges to offer stackable certificates and dual enrollment opportunities for students in order to earn college credit and/or workforce certification. He also stressed the unlikelihood of students today earning a living wage directly out of high school, but rather some level of continued education or college is needed. Furthermore, Yee stressed that such partnerships with local colleges must also include the sharing of post-secondary success rates of former students.
A common theme presented by all panelists was the importance of the board continuously engaging in community discussion and outreach about the effective role Linked Learning plays in preparing students for postsecondary education and work. Board’s role as Linked Learning ambassadors within the community, on a number of levels, continues to aid their district in the continued development of the Linked Learning approach through increase community buy-in.

IMG_0711aThis packed-room event was successful in part due to the participation of our event sponsors: The James Irvine Foundation, CTB McGraw-Hill, Drexel University, and Renaissance Learning. Thanks to those in the Linked Learning community who attended.

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