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Linked Learning: A Guide to Making High School Work

Marisa Saunders, Erica Hamilton, Sophie Fanelli, Jesse Moya, and Ebony Cain

April 2013


guidebook coverTo stem the tide of high school dropouts and a lack of college and career preparedness among graduates, a growing number of schools and districts across the state are turning to the promising practices and opportunities of Linked Learning.

Linked Learning, delivered through widely varied “pathways,” blends rigorous academics, a challenging career-based core, an opportunity for students to apply learning in real-world contexts, and individual support services. The practice is not uniform—pathways may vary in their theme or career focus, how they organize coursework, the extent to how much time students spend on and off campus, etc.—yet it can be equally successful, in a wide range of settings, for all students.

As Linked Learning expands, it is a key moment to identify many of the shared and effective strategies employed by schools and districts implementing the approach. Linked Learning: A Guide to Making High School Work, along with an accompanying DVD, highlights the experiences—both the struggles and successes—of sites that have committed to the hard work of transforming the high school experience for students using the Linked Learning approach.

Based on a study of 10 high school sites across California, this guidebook provides educators, policymakers and stakeholders interested in revamping their school communities a solid launching point. The guidebook does not offer hard-set rules or checklists for implementing Linked Learning; rather, it presents six conditions that are strongly associated with successful Linked Learning pathways. They are:

  • A commitment to equity
  • Connecting Linked Learning components
  • A culture of care and support
  • A grounding in the real world
  • An environment that works for adults
  • Redefining success


Citation: Saunders, M., Hamilton, E., Fanelli, S., Moya, J., & Cain, E. (2013). Linked Learning: A guide to making high school work. Los Angeles, CA: UCLA's Institute for Democracy, Education, and Access.



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