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Nonprofit’s Big Bet on Linked Learning

Resource type: News

San Jose Mercury News | [ View Original Source (opens in new window) ]

Naomi Post is head of community-based programmes at Atlantic.

By Naomi Post, guest commentary

The Atlantic Philanthropies is committed to spending its considerable endowment by 2020 in a final push to find workable answers to some seemingly intractable social problems.

That means we are making fewer — but larger — grants that have the potential to produce sustainable progress, including major investments that are helping to create new opportunities for young people to pursue health care careers in Oakland-Alameda County.

One is an $11 million grant to the Oakland Unified School District to expand the Linked Learning program, providing professional development, classroom renovation and a restructured school day, while creating public health student internships.

A second $10 million grant to the Alameda Health System creates an education and training center and student internships in a variety of health fields. These grants will work to prepare students and help them find good-paying jobs and build careers in the area’s rapidly growing health care field.

We expect these grants to demonstrate that the Linked Learning high school reform model will work on a major scale and that collaboration between public agencies and the health care industry can lead to change in a community’s health.

These smart health care career pipelines can improve academic and economic opportunities for low-income students of color and increase the capacity, quality and cultural competency of the health care workforce to better reflect and serve its community.

Over the next several years, Alameda County expects to have 10,000 job openings in health care — positions such as dental assistants, dental hygienists, licensed vocational nurses, registered nurses and emergency response positions.

Right now, qualified workers can be hard to find. Many young people here are dropping out of high school or graduating without the skills and support they need to secure and retain jobs that pay a living wage. The outcomes for young people of color are particularly poor.

Our grants seek to support and inspire these students to complete their high school education and take the steps needed to start careers. They also leverage critical services developed with our prior investments in the school district’s full-service community schools and school-based health centers, which provide the medical services and social and emotional supports these students need to be successful.

Oakland’s Linked Learning Program, which began in 2007 with funding from the Irvine Foundation, extends and restructures the high school day to better meet the college and career needs of students. The program combines rigorous academics, real world technical skills, work-based learning and personalized student support.

The success has been evident here and in other districts. Through this initial effort, OUSD successfully enrolled 40 percent of its students in challenging academic programs connected to real world work opportunities in the field of health care.

OUSD data from 2012 show that 84 percent of students in the Linked Learning program graduated — 25 percent higher than their peers.

Preliminary data suggests that the program makes school more relevant for students, increases credit accumulation and, in four of the seven districts studied, increases the likelihood students complete courses required for college entry.

On average, students reported greater ability to work in groups toward a shared goal, improved ability to make good decisions and develop productive mindsets, and increased knowledge about how to behave on the job.

Our Linked Learning grant in Oakland will create six additional pathways to careers in the health care industry and will expand the offerings to expose middle school students, who are often at a critical juncture in their academic lives, to health care careers they may never have heard of.

The grant will also support the critical infrastructure for the health careers pathways within OUSD. That means not only things like classroom renovation and lab equipment, but also teacher professional development, curriculum design, and student services such as career coaching, mentoring, credit recovery assistance, and the internship stipends and transportation budget necessary to make the program truly open to all students.

We want this model to live on after our grant ends, so we are collaborating with the key public and private players in the area.

We partnered, for example, with the Alameda Health Care Services Agency to provide supervised internships and help identify work opportunities with health care providers in the county. This partnership will help meet workforce needs in Oakland and will improve the prospects for local students of color to get health care jobs in their own communities.

We are investing big in Oakland, and we hope success here will help others learn and shape education reform across the country.

Learn More

> ‘Linked Learning’ Gives High School Students Hands-On, Real-World Career Training, San Jose Mercury News, 27 January 2015

> Visit Linked Learning website

Naomi Post is head of community-based programmes at The Atlantic Philanthropies.

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Linked Learning, Oakland Unified School District