ConnectED is thrilled to begin a partnership with Portland Public Schools (PPS), Oregon’s largest school district. Their interest in pursuing this work was first sparked by a desire to strengthen career and technical education (CTE). This is true for many of the communities with which we work: the starting point is often a discrete challenge or opportunity. However, PPS quickly realized that one of the best strategies for improving CTE is making it an integral part of students’ larger educational experience. This is precisely what a Linked Learning approach does: it prepares students for both college and career, transforming learning and teaching along the way.

Career and technical education has changed considerably over the years. One thing that has not changed, however, is that CTE remains separate from its more academically-focused counterparts. To provide a point of reference: most students in traditional high schools today take two or three courses at most, if they take CTE at all. No matter how good we make CTE (and we should do all that we can to make CTE state-of-the-art), if we do not make the other twenty or so courses more engaging, we will continue to see students disengage, leading to large numbers of young people who drop out or simply finish high school poorly prepared for success in further education and career.

A Linked Learning approach not only increases the number of CTE courses students take (ideally one course for each of four years of high school), but also connects CTE to core academics. As a result, you get an educational approach that emphasizes multi-disciplinary project-based learning, performance assessment, and real world application. When both CTE and academic courses improve, students benefit from a much more focused, exciting, and comprehensive program of study.

We’re excited to see how this work will grow in Portland, and look forward to learning as we go. With every district we partner with, it’s always clear that when students love what they’re learning, they work harder, dream bigger, and learn more!