Promising Practices for Success in Linked Learning Schools

For Immediate Release 
March 21, 2013
Contact: Eric Wagner (510) 465-6444, ext 318
New Ed Trust–West Study Finds Promising Practices for Student Success in Linked Learning Schools; Reveals Implications for District-Level Implementation throughout California

OAKLAND, CA (March 21, 2013) – As the Linked Learning high school reform initiative expands across California, the results of a two-year study by the Education Trust–West identifies promising practices in Linked Learning schools and districts. However, the study also notes variation in districtwide implementation of these best practices. The results of the study can be found in the new report released today titled, Expanding Access, Creating Options: How Linked Learning Pathways Can Mitigate Barriers to College and Career Access in Schools and Districts.

“Too many students are not achieving college and career success in California,” said Arun Ramanathan, Executive Director of The Education Trust–West, a statewide education advocacy organization that works to close gaps in opportunity and achievement for students of color and low-income students. “Based on our research, we see that Linked Learning has the potential to reduce these inequities and offer students a real connection between academic and career success.”

According to its proponents, the Linked Learning approach aims to prepare students for postsecondary education and careers by connecting academics to real-world applications in school and workplace settings. The study examines the impact of the Linked Learning approach in four schools and three districts. High quality Linked Learning schools mitigated or eliminated traditional high school barriers to student access and success in college-preparatory coursework.

“These Linked Learning schools showed a real commitment to providing every student with meaningful college and career preparation,” said Jeannette LaFors, Director of Equity Initiatives at The Education Trust–West. “Students, parents, faculty, and business/industry partners are all working together to link academic preparation with real life work experiences to deeply engage and motivate students.”

The authors found that students graduated from Linked Learning schools and accessed college- and career-preparatory coursework at relatively high rates. However, students had mixed results on standardized assessments of student achievement such as the Early Assessment Program (EAP). They found that districts expanding Linked Learning have made notable progress, but found wide variation in the implementation of best practices identified at the site level. For instance, districts are offering more college preparatory courses that integrate career and technical education than ever before. However, many of their schools have failed to eliminate practices that can lead to academic tracking by race and class.

The enactment of state legislation (AB 790) is expanding the Linked Learning initiative into dozens of districts through the Linked Learning Pilot Program. The authors recommend that stakeholders hold districts to rigorous standards such as those established by ConnectEd: The California Center for College and Career.

“We found that when implemented with fidelity, the Linked Learning approach can fundamentally transform teaching, learning and educational systems,” said Tameka L. McGlawn, Senior Practice Associate at The Education Trust—West. “As with any initiative, expanding Linked Learning offers promise and challenges.  We can and must ensure that Linked Learning intentionally serves all students adequately and equitably,” she concluded.

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About The Education Trust—West, a California GEAR UP Partner. 

The Education Trust—West works for the high academic achievement of all students at all levels, pre-k through college. We expose opportunity and achievement gaps that separate students of color and low-income students from other youth, and we identify and advocate for the strategies that will forever close those gaps.

Overcoming Financial Obstacles to College Attendance


Released today by The New American Foundation’s Asset Building Program, a new policy paper entitled Overcoming Obstacles to College Attendance and Degree Completion: Toward a Pro-College Savings Agenda.

The rise in student loan debt has directed critical attention to the growing pace of college costs as well as the reliance on loans to finance those costs. For graduates entering the workforce in recent years, many are finding that they are unable to find the type of job they thought they were securing when they received their degree, if they are able to find a job at all. Consequently, more loans are going unpaid and student loan debt has become the only class of consumer debt where defaults are increasing.

While debt is a clear indicator of the flaws in the current way that postsecondary education is financed, a less visible consequence is the number of students who never make it to college because they perceive it as financially out of reach or the attrition of students who cannot afford to persist. Students need a way to finance college that helps them build the expectation that college is an attainable goal and the resources to make it a reality without compromising their future financial well-being.

Even in times of economic downturn, a college education continues to be a predictor of job protection and higher earnings. Despite these advantages, students from low income homes are earning a college degree at the lowest rate in three decades. The divergence of college costs and a family’s ability to pay has resulted in a gulf that traditional forms of financial aid fail to bridge. Unfortunately, this translates to a perception that college will be inaccessible in the minds of the students who have the most to gain from that credential.

An extremely enlightening report and supports the California GEAR UP financial literacy pilot that will provide the vehicle and resources to talk with students and families about this reality.

Shelley Davis-Director, California GEAR UP

While expanding existing financial aid for low-income families would help offset costs for students already on a college bound path, introducing these resources at the point of entry are unlikely to expand access to students who may have long dismissed a college education as a financially realistic option. A growing body of evidence, however, suggests that savings uniquely build both the resources and expectations necessary to increase access by students from low-income families.

Unfortunately, these families face considerable barriers when trying to save, including, ironically, from the financial aid and public assistance programs that are designed to increase college affordability and material wellbeing. Many of these programs have complex rules and explicit restrictions on the amount of savings families can have, making them less likely to save for both short-term and long-term goals. Removing these barriers, while providing additional savings incentives, could expand the ranks of college educated workforce, especially among students from low-income families.

This paper examines current trends in college cost and college financing, the role of savings in increasing postsecondary access and completion, and present a framework for developing a pro-college savings agenda and specific policy recommendations to overcome obstacles currently faces by low-income students.

To read the entire report, please visit the Asset Building Program website HERE.

For more information about California GEAR UP and it’s financial literacy pilot information, please visit our website.

Action Alert: Contact Washington Week

Contact the House and Senate Leadership, YOUR Members of Congress and the White House every day through August 2, and demand they protect GEAR UP.

The debt ceiling debate rages on in Washington, DC. Negotiations between the White House and Congress collapsed last week. Now, both the House and Senate leadership are pursuing two separate plans to raise the debt ceiling before August 2, when America’s borrowing authority reaches its legal limit, resulting in default.

As you can see, things are evolving very rapidly as time runs out and only three things are certain:

  1. Both Republicans and Democrats are aware of the need to raise the debt ceiling to avoid default, but there’s no agreement on how to do this;
  2. Both the House and Senate plans include $1.2 trillion in cuts to discretionary spending over the next 10 years (approx. 12 billion a year);
  3. You need to stand up for the principle that low-income people should be protected in whatever deal is cut.

You need to make sure your voice heard every day this week leading up to August 2 and demand that GEAR UP and other college access programs be safeguarded in the deal-making process.

Here’s what you can do now:

  1. Recruit 5 persons to reach out to the House of Representatives, Senate and White House (GEAR UP students, GEAR UP parents, GEAR UP teachers, GEAR UP partners, colleagues, friends and family).
  2. Contact the following offices:
  3. Follow-up with your group, ask them to continue the “chain” by recruiting 5 more people and get the word out!

PLEASE NOTE: Capitol Hill switchboards and websites have been overloaded over the past few days, keep insisting until you get through because GEAR UP must make its stand for college access, NOW!
The Message

“[ELECTED OFFICIAL NAME], the American people need you to protect the programs and services our low-income, minority and disadvantaged students depend on to enroll in and succeed in college. I urge you to defend GEAR UP in the debt-ceiling and deficit-reduction negotiations, because only an educated workforce can help us secure a prosperous economic future for our country.”

Thank you very much for your hard work and your support in responding to this call to action. It is very important that you act NOW for the duration of this process. Not doing so will have dire consequences for GEAR UP, college access and all of education for many years to come!

Helping Students Navigate the Path to College

As you may remember from previous posts, Doing What Works from WestEd, the American Institutes for Research and RMC Research Corporation, is a great multi-media site that is a wonderful clearinghouse for research based education practices online. This site from  the U.S. Department of Education offers an online library of resources that may help teachers, schools, districts, states and technical assistance providers implement research-based instructional practice.

This Practice Guide offers educators, administrators, and policymakers five research-based practice recommendations designed to increase postsecondary access, particularly for underserved, low-income, or first-generation college-going students. Fitting perfectly with the goals of California GEAR UP, each recommendation includes a summary of the research evidence and a level of evidence rating. Developed by an expert panel convened by the Institute of Education Sciences, the Practice Guide is the foundation for all the Doing What Works content on increasing postsecondary access.

As usual, the site provides easy to navigate tools and well produced multimedia all education professionals and families can use to help students navigate the path to college.

The Fostering College Aspirations section speaks directly to the GEAR UP community, which focuses on surrounding students with adults and peers who support their college-going aspirations. The practice guide and multi-media provides examples of ways schools can foster college-going aspirations beginning as early as middle school. Carefully designed mentoring programs connect students with college-educated professionals who can share their college experiences, talk about career planning, assist with the application process, and check on students’ academic progress.

Helping students navigate the steps to apply for college and understand financial aid is another extremely important piece of the college access puzzle. Knowledgeable school officials should offer one-on-one support regarding preparing for and taking admissions tests, searching for and selecting between colleges and other postsecondary education options that meet students’ needs, and completing the application and enrollment process. Under the Assisting with College Entry practice, the site provides additional support, downloadable guides, and video that further demystify the college entry process.

Checking out this extremely useful site is a must for all GEAR UP and education professionals concerned with college access. The wealth of materials and information is a one stop website that should be an automatic go-to for the GEAR UP community.

Let us know how you use the site on our Facebook page!

Support College Access in Middle School with Donors Choose

Most people think that high school is where students should start thinking about preparing for college, but California GEAR UPKnowHow2GO and the Lumina Foundation for Education know that real success starts in middle school – where students first begin more rigorous coursework.  That’s why they are working together to half-fund middle school college readiness projects across 16 states. KnowHow2GO is an effort initially funded in 2007 by the Lumina Foundation and now works through Donors Choose to match individual donors with teachers.

Attention middle school teachers! If you’re interested in KnowHow2GO funding consider submitting projects that include:

  • College guides, Financial Aid guides, and PSAT/NMSQT/Pre-ACT test prep books.
  • Tools to support AVID classes, rigorous courses, or extracurricular activities that promote college-ready skills (Mock Trial, Debate, Math Club, etc.).
  • focus on college access and exposure.
  • are academically rigorous and emphasize college readiness.
  • include the word ‘college’ in project essay

Middle schools in the following states are eligible:

CA | CT | FL | ID | IL | IN | IA | KY | MA | MI | MT | NE | OH | TN | WA | WI

If you’re a teacher looking for inspiration, or a prospective donor looking to help, check out these great examples of qualifying projects:

A variety of books and other college-focused materials
An AVID class needing books to show them college is in reach
SAT prep materials
A trip for students to visit a local college

Here is how to sign up:

  1. Log in to their teacher account on (any public school teacher can sign up at
  2. Submit up to three project requests for $400 in materials per request, for resources to help their class learn about, visit, or prepare for college.
  3. For priority consideration, projects should be submitted by November 1st, but we suggest your teachers submit their projects sooner for best chance of matched funds this fall.
  4. Then what happens? Within a week of project approval, if their project meets the above criteria, they will see a logo on your project page. For more information about preparing their students for college, they can visit

For more information on KnowHow2GO funding pages on Donors Choose, click HERE.

For more information about the KnowHow2GO program, including how to get students involved or how to volunteer, expend all your mouse-clicking energy right here.

UCLA Report: Civil Rights Imperative for Increasing College Enrollment


Interventions to Support Readiness, Recruitment, Access,
Transition, and Retention for Postsecondary Education Success:
An Equity of Opportunity Policy and Practice Analysis

Recognition is growing about the public health and civil rights imperative for reducing the high rate of school dropouts. However, too little policy attention is paid to enhancing equity of opportunity for those transitioning from adolescence to young adulthood by increasing enrollment and success in postsecondary education.

Previous policy and practice reports from the Center at UCLA have provided analyses indicating that reducing dropouts, increasing graduation rates, and closing the achievement gap require more than improving preK-12 instruction and enhancing school management. In doing so, those analyses clarified fundamental flaws in prevailing school improvement policies and practices for addressing barriers to learning and teaching and recommended transformative changes.

This new report extends the earlier work by analyzing postsecondary education. Given concerns about diversity and the degree to which some subgroups are underrepresented in postsecondary education, the report stresses that it is essential to use the lenses of equity of opportunity and social justice in rethinking postsecondary education policies and practices. Using these lenses, the report focuses on interventions for improving K-12 in ways that reduce dropouts and improve readiness for postsecondary education, programs for bolstering recruitment and access, and efforts to facilitate transition and retention; recommendations for a shift in policy to enhance equity of opportunity are offered. The work is particularly timely given the increasing calls for enhancing enrollment in and completion of postsecondary education programs and for ensuring inclusion of more and more students from subgroups that have been underrepresented for too long.

As the gateway for student access to post-secondary education, what can we do in middle schools now?

What are we already doing?