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SCVNews.com | State Pilot Program Links Learning, Career Readiness | 09-11-2012
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[CDE] – As many as 20 school districts across California will have opportunities to get state assistance in launching new programs demonstrated to help students graduate from high school prepared to succeed in careers and college, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced Tuesday.

“Linked Learning” programs tie together real-world professions with demanding academics through challenging coursework, technical skills and knowledge, work-based learning, and pertinent support mechanisms for kids. Research shows that students in these programs are not only demonstrably more likely to graduate from high school than their statewide counterparts, but they are graduating with the skills and knowledge that California employers say they need.

“Career technical education overall, of which Linked Learning is an important part, is a powerful motivator for kids and a potential lifesaver for California businesses,” Torlakson said. “When students see a real pathway between school and careers, they are much more likely to stay on that path. This Linked Learning pilot program will help kids across the state succeed.”

Legislation by Assembly Member Warren Furutani (AB 790) approved last year called for the establishment of Linked Learning pilot programs by up to 20 applicants in California. These applicants can include school districts, county offices of education, and direct-funded charter schools serving students in grades nine through 12. The pilot program will be used to assess how Linked Learning can be expanded to schools across the state.

Under the pilot program, participants can form regional partnerships with each other and work closely with nonprofit organizations and businesses when planning and implementing their Linked Learning programs. From the state, they can look for a full array of technical assistance and professional development opportunities throughout program implementation.

“The business community is a strong partner with schools and state and local leaders on improving education—and with good reason,” said Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce Senior Vice President David Rattray, who co-chaired Torlakson’s transition team. “These programs, which prepare students for college and careers, have a proven track record of providing us a next generation of employees who are dedicated, focused, and well-trained.”

The Linked Learning pilot program meets a number of needs to support California’s students:

* California faces the challenge of reforming its public high school system to produce a workforce that is ready for the 21st century workplace.

* California can lead efforts to improve graduation rates, close achievement and opportunity gaps, and prepare all pupils for success in pursuing both living-wage careers and a variety of postsecondary learning experiences.

* California businesses say they cannot find enough qualified applicants to fill their open positions due to a skills gap that exists for much of the state’s workforce.

* California schools operate a variety of effective career-technical education programs that meet local needs and evolve to meet economic demands.

* The Linked Learning approach is a promising high school transformational strategy and can be expanded to play a pivotal role in enabling all of the state’s students to be well-prepared for the demands of a global economy and society.

“Linked Learning is changing the way we—and, more importantly, students—think about the entire high school experience,” said Christopher Cabaldon, executive director of the Linked Learning Alliance. “I’m delighted to see the launch of this pilot program so that more students can prepare for success in college, careers, and life. We know Linked Learning works, and we know students succeed when they see the connection between what they learn in school and their future aspirations.”

The Linked Learning pilot program fits into Torlakson’s Career Readiness Initiative, launched last year with the goal of helping lower dropout rates and provide graduates with the skills needed to pursue further education and training, enter the workforce, and help the state rebound from its economic recession. The multi-faceted Initiative is aimed at integrating CTE into today’s high school curriculum and helping link students with California business and industry.

The initial phase of the pilot program will run from 2012-17, with the 2012-13 school year serving as a planning year for participants.

To learn more about the AB 790 Linked Learning pilot program and the process for applying, visit http://www.cde.ca.gov/fg/fo/r17/ab790rfa.asp.

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