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January 22, 2015

Linked learning jumpstarts health careers

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At a high school in Oakland, California, students learn how to deliver a baby and tie a tourniquet as part of an education philosophy that emphasizes real-world health issues and skills.

The Life Academy of Health and Bioscience follows the model of “linked learning” to show students a practical extension of their education in real-world STEM careers. Students at the school choose to study medicine, mental health or biotechnology and pursue that track until graduation.

The model is one approach to raising graduation rates in Oakland, a city where only half of African-American and Latino students graduate from high school. Students of color are the majority at Life Academy and 91 percent have free or reduced lunch; it also has the second highest rate in the city of students who graduate to pursue four-year college degrees.

The high school’s student-centered approach focuses lessons on collaboration and real-world application to students’ lives.

This means that students have the opportunity to accompany medical professionals in the field, which inspires them to pursue further education and career, according to principal Preston Thomas.

“They are starting to take some of the real-world practical skills that they are learning on the internships, but also the things that we’re talking about in class, and they are starting to synthesize that into the vision that they see for themselves,” Thomas said.

A key component of the school is its involvement with the surrounding community as well as the close mentorship that teachers provide to students, according to Diane Friedlaender, a Stanford University researcher who has studied Life Academy.


Warm up questions
  1. What do you think of the question: “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
  2. What is your definition of a successful career?
  3. How does what you learn in school contribute to your chances of having a successful career?
Critical thinking questions
  1. What are the challenges of trying to go to college if other members of your family have not done so?
  2. What are some reasons that a city might have low high school graduation rates? Do you think that learning practical skills might help some students continue to graduation?
  3. Do you think that a linked learning approach would work in your community? Why or why not?
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