Linked Learning in Sacramento: Organizing the District and Community for Sustainable Reform

Linked Learning in Sacramento: Organizing the District and Community for Sustainable Reform cover
January 16, 2013
Sara Rutherford-Quach
Erik Rice
In early January, 63 districts and county offices of education learned that they have been selected by the California Department of Education to participate in the Linked Learning Pilot Program. Linked Learning is an approach currently used by nine California districts to implement and sustain smaller, themed schools known as “pathways.” These pathways prepare students for college and career, integrating rigorous academics with career-based learning in school and in real-world professional workplaces.

As Linked Learning scales up statewide, local education agencies in the pilot can look to the experiences of the program's nine pioneer districts to inform their own work. These districts began implementation of Linked Learning in 2009-10 through a grant from the James Irvine Foundation, and three of them are the focus of case studies produced by the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education.

The latest case study, Linked Learning in Sacramento: Organizing the District and Community for Sustainable Reform, is being released today and tells the story of how Sacramento City Unified School District (SCUSD) has managed to integrate Linked Learning into its own district reform through staffing, reorganizing, and building capacity within the district. The study notes some early indicators of improvement including increases in API scores and decreases in dropout rates at some SCUSD high schools.

Key to successfully implementing Linked Learning for all three case study districts has been work that establishes coherence between Linked Learning and other district initiatives. In Sacramento, leaders have worked to establish college and career readiness as a major goal and to identify Linked Learning as the primary vehicle for achieving this goal.

The other two cases are Linked Learning in Porterville: Creating Capacity for Innovation and Change through Collaborative Leadership and Community Engagement and Linked Learning in Pasadena: Creating a Collaborative Culture for Sustainable District Reform. Case study districts were selected to represent both urban and rural areas and for their widely varying contexts in terms of their history with career and technical education, vision for Linked Learning, leadership turnover, and community context.


The California Linked Learning District Initiative was launched in 2008 by the James Irvine Foundation and is directed by ConnectEd: The California Center for College and Career. The initiative supports nine California school districts (see list, below).

SCOPE is partnering with Irvine, ConnectEd and other organizations, providing research and professional development for district, school, and community participants.

Linked Learning Participating Districts

  • Antioch Unified School District
  • Los Angeles Unified School District
  • Long Beach Unified School District
  • Montebello Unified School District
  • Oakland Unified School District
  • Pasadena Unified School District
  • Porterville Unified School District
  • Sacramento City Unified School District
  • West Contra Costa Unified School District