Thursday, September 30, 2010

State, Local Leaders Recognize California's First Linked Learning Certified High School

Kearny Digital Media and Design is Model for Improving Graduation Rates

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell, Assemblymember Marty Block, and local leaders gathered at Kearny High Educational Complex in San Diego Sept. 30 to honor the School of Digital Media and Design (DMD) for being the first school to achieve Linked Learning Certification. Of DMD’s class of 2009, 99% graduated and 95% went on to postsecondary education. Since becoming an industry-themed pathway, DMD’s graduation rates have been consistently higher than district and state averages by as much as 16 percentage points. The school has increased its state Academic Performance Index by 167 points over five years and received national recognition this year as a Blue Ribbon School. Its student population is 77% students of color and 68% socioeconomically disadvantaged.

“The impressive graduation and college going rates of DMD’s students are strong indicators that Linked Learning is working to engage and prepare students for the future. Linked Learning is transforming high schools. I hope that more high schools will implement this innovative and effective reform approach.” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell.

Linked Learning pathways combine challenging academics, demanding technical courses, and work-based learning focused around an industry theme such as arts and media, engineering, or biomedicine. These pathways connect learning with students’ interests and career aspirations, leading to higher graduation rates, increased postsecondary enrollments, higher earning potential, and greater civic engagement. “DMD prepares us for the real world and our future. We work with real clients like Time Warner Cable, like we will have to do in the future. We take our work from the classroom and, through our projects, apply it outside the classroom. It makes us feel a sense of accomplishment because other students (in other schools) don’t get this opportunity,” said 11th grade DMD student Savanna Huynh.

Students presented a website they had created with media and technology assistance from Time Warner Cable employees. The website synthesized information DMD students had learned in class into an interactive website designed to engage middle school students in learning science and math. Time Warner’s involvement is one example of how DMD is connecting with industry and exposing students to careers and the world of work. “This innovative approach to teaching the state’s standards—through a pathway focused on design and media projects— has clearly reached DMD students. Students are excited about learning and are staying in school,” said San Diego Unified School Superintendent Bill Kowba. Linked Learning schools follow the same guiding principles and core components, but the approach is flexible so each school can develop its own pathway and industry-themed curriculum.

To become a Linked Learning certified pathway the school had to meet the vast majority of 39 certification criteria or indicators that the school has created the optimal environment for improving student achievement and engagement. ConnectEd, a statewide hub for the Linked Learning field, and its partners—the National Academy Foundation, the National Career Academy Coalition, and the Career Academy Support Network at the University of California, Berkeley—established and manage the certification process for Linked Learning pathways.