State leaders should embrace new model for high school education, new policy brief finds
April 7, 2011

High schools must combine rigorous academics with hands-on job training if students are to compete in the 21st century economy

Marisa Saunders: (310) 866-2262,
Teri Battaglieri: (517) 203-2940,

EAST LANSING, Mich. (April 7, 2011) - The old methods of educating high school students fail to prepare them with the well-rounded education they need to succeed in a rapidly evolving job market, according to a policy brief and draft legislation released today.

Students must be taught both strong technical skills and rigorous academic concepts - not just one or the other - if they are to have an opportunity to find well-paying jobs after high school or college, according to Dr. Marisa Saunders, a research associate at UCLA's Institute for Democracy, Education and Access, and Christopher Chrisman, an associate with the Denver office of the law firm Holland & Hart.

"Students who gain both academic and career education stand the best chance of accessing the full range of post-secondary options and a solid start toward a personally and socially productive middle-class life," Saunders and Chrisman said in their policy brief, entitled "Linking Learning to the 21st Century: Preparing All Students for College, Career, and Civic Participation."

The policy brief is an update of a brief entitled "Multiple Pathways," which was released in late 2008. The updated policy brief reflects a change in terminology from "Multiple Pathways" to "Linked Learning." It was produced by the National Education Policy Center (NEPC), housed at the University of Colorado at Boulder School of Education, with funding from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

Traditional high school programs that prepare students for either a job or college - but not both - unfairly limit students by segregating them into two categories: those who might be college-bound and those who might enter the workforce immediately after graduation. Non-college bound tracks offered by traditional vocational programs tend to house a disproportionate number of students who are minorities, are less affluent and whose parents did not attend college.

Saunders and Chrisman recommend that states adopt sweeping education reforms that include a strong "Linked Learning" curriculum, which combines rigorous academics with hands-on career and technical training. According to Saunders and Chrisman, this method better prepares students for well-paying 21st century jobs while providing employers with a "skilled and nimble workforce."

Linked Learning has been implemented in some school districts with great success. For example, students at San Diego's Stanley E. Foster Construction Tech Academy receive college preparation courses that are integrated with hands-on study of engineering, construction and architecture. The result: 81 percent of that school's 2007 graduating class were accepted to college, while also receiving the skills needed to get a well-paying job.

The Construction Tech Academy's successes can be replicated across the nation, Saunders and Chrisman said. To that end, the authors drafted proposed statutory language that state legislatures can use to implement Linked Learning pilot programs in their own states.

To read Saunders and Chrisman's full report go to:

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The brief is also available on the National Education Policy Center website at:


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