In California, engaging community stakeholders to craft a Graduate Profile began with ConnectED: The National Center for College and Career in the early 2010’s when generous funding from the James Irvine Foundation enabled the CA-based technical assistance provider to direct the CA Linked Learning District Initiative. Following the lead of Edwin Diaz, former Superintendent of Pasadena USD, ConnectED supported all nine medium and large districts participating in the initiative to create Graduate Profiles. As ConnectED expanded across CA and the nation, creating a Graduate Profile became the standard starting point for systemic transformation work. And, a movement began.
For those inexperienced with college and career pathways, or Linked Learning, it’s a comprehensive systemic reform strategy that incorporates many of the Graduate Profile implementation strategies described in this blueprint. Schools are organized around a handful of career-themed pathways, such as engineering, digital media, health, and law and justice. Several hundred students move as a cohort through their academic and technical courses during a four-year program of study, which is supplemented by work-based learning (WBL) experiences and student supports necessary to foster success. A cross-disciplinary team of teachers collaborate to design and facilitate projects aligned with the pathway theme. Business, industry, and community partners support teachers and students by offering WBL experiences and serving on an advisory board. Students are motivated by the relevance of their program offerings as they prepare simultaneously for both college and career.
Over time, pioneering districts (Long Beach, Oakland, Pasadena, Porterville, Sacramento, West Contra Costa, and others) expanded the number of college and career pathways and academies. Porterville Unified offers 14 open choice pathways across five high schools serving about three-quarters of their students. They have invested heavily in WBL and one-on-one internships for all students to develop and demonstrate competencies articulated on the PUSD Graduate Profile. Long Beach Unified has gone to “wall-to-wall” pathways across all of its high schools, embedding student projects and WBL into the student experience to actualize the LB College & Career Graduate Profile in order to achieve their goal to “transform the diploma from a certificate of completion to a ‘Passport to Opportunity’.”
ConnectED supported all districts in the initiative through a process of rolling out high quality pathways, the mechanism by which districts operationalized their Graduate Profiles. Often, pathways crafted specialized versions of the Graduate Profile catered to the career theme. They benchmarked the outcomes, created or adopted rubrics against which to assess student progress, designed cross-disciplinary real-world projects that embed performance tasks for students to practice the outcomes, and assessed student progress using both formative and summative forms of performance assessment.
Cohorting students into smaller learning communities for four years, supported by a core team of teachers who come to know each and every student well over the course of the pathway program creates a positive environment for addressing students’ social and emotional needs — i.e., trusting relationships, sense of belonging, and safe and supportive classroom environments. Very often pathway students and teachers describe the pathway as a family. Like other schools and programs, college and career pathways still must overcome long-standing inequities. However, the close-knit pathway community creates a safe environment for key stakeholders to challenge their assumptions, surface inherent biases, and adapt structures and processes that value differences and honor identities in ways that are culturally and linguistically sustaining.
To learn more about Linked Learning, visit ConnectED: The National Center for College and Career.