California Linked Learning Convention

Remarks by Dr. Timothy P. White
Chancellor, California State University
California Linked Learning Convention
Los Angeles, CA
January 12, 2015

Thank you, David Rattray, for the kind introduction – and thanks as well to Christopher Cabaldon for bringing this group together.

I’m pleased that this united effort has the support of Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas.

We are truly united for the good of our students – as evidenced by the comments Steve Zimmer just made, and as shown by the presence of so many education colleagues in this room… including Superintendent Chris Steinhauser from Long Beach and Superintendent Dale Marsden from San Bernardino.

I would also like to extend particular appreciation to the Irvine Foundation for their tremendous support of Linked Learning initiatives, and for funding rigorous research and evaluation of Linked Learning programs.

That research piece is particularly critical. We all may intuitively feel that Linked Learning is the right direction to go. However, the quantitative and qualitative data is essential for us to know what works and identify any soft spots.

With the support of the Irvine Foundation, California State University doctoral candidates are studying Linked Learning and documenting success factors. They are providing data to school districts on the programs, supporting local efforts to prepare Linked Learning leaders.

Ultimately, this data will help us scale up best practices and build regional support networks that meaningfully enhance local efforts.

Equipped with the data gathered so far, I am confident in saying that Linked Learning is one of the most significant educational methodology reforms in existence.

The evidence is clear: Linked Learning breaks cycles of poverty; it overcomes inequalities; and it better prepares youth for college and career.

Indeed, the evidence of the benefit of Linked Learning practices mirrors much of the benefit demonstrated through the CSU’s innovative higher education practices that improve student success and degree completion. Practices like undergraduate research, enhanced faculty advising, alumni mentoring, peer-to-peer learning communities, internship opportunities and service projects that apply classroom learning in other settings.

One of the most exciting elements of these innovative practices is that – while all students benefit – the positive effect is measurably greater for students from historically underserved communities.

This differential provides a tangible means to close the achievement gaps within our student population.
The university’s alliance with Linked Learning relates to the very essence of our mission and our priorities. You could say it is part of our DNA: we are about access and diversity; we are about quality; we are about student success.

We hold true to the promise that any and every student who has the aptitude and willingness to earn a California State University degree will be given the opportunity, on a reasonable and equitable basis.
These central values align with those of Linked Learning, but our commitment is driven by more than that… we are driven by the understanding that education exists not as a continuum but rather as a life-cycle. 

Let’s consider one example of that life cycle:

  • A student begins her schooling in the Long Beach Unified School District and graduates from Long Beach Polytechnic High School
  • She attends Long Beach City College and earns an Associate Degree for Transfer
  • She transfers to Cal State Long Beach, earning her bachelor’s and a teaching credential
  • She returns to the Long Beach Unified School District, becoming an educator for the next generation of Long Beach students

This life cycle repeats generation after generation. It provides the core for our entire society and economy.

As California’s largest producer of educators, the CSU is uniquely positioned to prepare new teachers, counselors, and administrators for the Linked Learning effort.

This role connects closely with the system’s major role in advancing the Common Core in California.

The fit between the Common Core and Linked Learning is an excellent one. The cross-disciplinary instruction and project-based learning characteristic of Linked Learning make it an ideal foundation for advancing the Common Core.

Linked Learning has distinct potential to support California’s educators in implementing the new standards.

That brings me to the expression I’ve heard from several people in the Linked Learning Alliance: Common Core is the what. Linked Learning is the how.

Moving along the life cycle of education in California, many students go from high school to community colleges. Around half of CSU undergraduates are transfer students.

Both systems, the California State University and the California Community Colleges, have an obligation to our students to build seamless Linked Learning pathways to the bachelor’s degree.

We do this through associate degrees for transfer that guarantee junior level standing in majors for students upon arrival at a CSU campus. Additionally, there are countless campus-to-campus initiatives between our two systems.

These initiatives are testing ways to integrate high-impact educational practices into the coursework that counts for transfer to any of the 23 California State Universities.

Further, many CSU faculty have initiated partnerships of their own with nearby community college colleagues to create opportunities for the students we share.

Those opportunities typically fall within the high-impact, Linked Learning model – engaging students in community or industry based projects while putting broadly transferable intellectual skills like writing, problem-solving, teamwork and creativity into specific, applied settings so that students can see the relevance and value right away.

If we view education as a life cycle, we must acknowledge that many people are place-bound. The entirety of their educational journey will take place within one city, county or region of the state. Their first job, perhaps their entire career, will be in that same area.

As a system of 23 wonderful campuses, CSU can serve as a unifying member in regional partnerships.

Our campuses are located across the state in every major region. In a number of areas, CSU campuses are already making significant contributions by bringing together various interests from education, government and industry. This can be the case in every region.

The reasons this matters to us are clear from the evidence of Linked Learning’s positive impacts.

Regional collaboration across education, government and business sectors – as well as faith-based and community organizations – can be an especially effective means of increasing college readiness and persistence, reducing needs for developmental courses, and improving the fit between educational programs and employer needs.

CSU campuses have many important roles to play in the regional delivery of Linked Learning.

To my CSU colleagues that are here today, I encourage you to use this opportunity to build and strengthen the partnerships that build readily on the multiple synergies between our university system and the Linked Learning effort.

The results of collaboration will be significant:

  • Aligning expectations across education sectors to ensure that course content will prepare students for bachelor’s level work
  • Bringing educators together with government and industry professionals to connect education with business applications
  • Coordinating service-learning activities that enable university, college and high school students to participate together in highly meaningful projects of social, environmental or economic significance
  • Partnering to offer professional development that fosters advanced expertise among teachers in Linked Learning –including alignment of curriculum and instruction at the school and district levels with the Common Core
  • Informing our SAC strategy to build capacity

The faculty, staff and administration of the California State University are committed to fulfilling our several roles in California’s landmark Linked Learning reforms.

We look forward to being partners with all of you and I thank you in advance.