SVHS unveils linked learning
Sonoma Valley High School last week announced that the first of its Linked Learning Pathways will be Engineering, Design and Technology. This announcement is the next step in the newest offerings at the high school, which began with the implementation last fall of freshman teams and new default graduation requirements that mirror the University of California/California State University minimum requirements for admissions.
The first year of the engineering, design and technology pathway will be led by two Sonoma Valley High School teachers, Kelly Kennedy and Mike Lea. Kennedy, a graduate of Dartmouth College, in New Hampshire, is a math teacher with a background in engineering and art. Lea, who teaches Metal I, II and Advanced Metal, has a bachelor’s and teaching credentials from California State University Chico. He had a career in bicycle frame design and construction before becoming a teacher. Additional teachers, courses and electives will be announced as the program is finalized, based on the initial pathway enrollment.
Vice Principal Andrew Ryan was named project leader of the pathway implementation earlier this year and will continue to be the point person at the school throughout the pathway rollout. Additional pathways are also being considered for subsequent years but those areas of concentration have not yet been determined.
The school’s implementation of a Linked Learning Pathway is the result of more than two years of research and more than a dozen site visits to California high schools.
“Linked Learning brings together core academics, technical education, work based learning opportunities and support for students,” explains school Superintendent Louann Carlomagno. “Our research into best practices at leading high schools around the country kept leading us back to Linked Learning. Pathways can make high schools more competitive and attractive to students, generate higher academic achievement by allowing students to study topics that interest them, and lead to higher college attendance rates, greater earning potential after graduation and increased civic engagement.”
For many years, the high school has offered a wide range of career and technical education classes (CTE) such as video production, culinary arts and agriculture. The decision to add a more cross-curricular pathway, and the decision that the pathway would be centered around engineering, design and technology, was the result of student interest surveys, employment projections for different industry sectors, faculty interest and community support, including that of potential corporate/small business partners.
A key component of the research and implementation of the pathway concept was the formation of a community planning council formed last year. A group of Sonoma’s community, business and civic leaders were invited to hear presentations on Linked Learning and to provide their unique insights into the opportunities and challenges in successful implementation at the school. The feedback has been both invaluable and uniformly positive.
“Because our overriding focus for Sonoma High is to ensure that students are college and career ready when they graduate, we focused on pathways that can play a pivotal role in accomplishing that goal,” said SVHS Principal Dino Battaglini. “The academic coursework, linked with technical training and real world experience will give our students an advantage in high school, postsecondary education, and careers.” Research shows that students in pathways score higher on standardized tests, are more likely to complete high school, attend college in higher rates and earn more than their peers.
A typical pathway consists of four components: core academics, a complement of three or more related technical courses; a series of work-based learning opportunities; and support services including counseling and supplemental instruction.
At Sonoma Valley High School, that will mean that sophomores choosing this pathway will take their choice of English, history, math and science classes (including honors and Advanced Placement options), plus engineering elective and P.E. Students who want to enroll in an additional elective (such as newspaper or forensics) will need to add a zero period (7 a.m. to 7:55 a.m.) or arrange to waive the physical education requirement.
Students in this pathway are electing to focus on engineering, design and technology in a deliberate and integrated way. Future engineering electives might include civil, aerospace, biotech or digital engineering options. The work-based learning opportunities might include college visits, worksite visits, guest speakers, job shadowing and internships.
At this time, the enrollment numbers for the Engineering, Design and Technology Pathway are not yet known. Freshmen are now being asked to submit their class choices for the 2012-13 school year. Every attempt will be made to enable all students, who want to enroll, the chance to do so. A handful of students may be unable to because of schedule conflicts; in a case of over-enrollment, names will be chosen by lottery. There is no minimum grade point average requirement.
Students who choose the Engineering, Design and Technology Pathway are asked to complete one full year, but are not locked in to all three years, nor to a career in engineering. “This pathway will give students a real-world context for better understanding the academic and technical foundation they will need to succeed in whatever future postsecondary option or career path they choose,” explained Lea. Added Kennedy, “This is not aimed just at students who plan on college, or just at students who plan on going straight into the workforce. We are aiming for a broad cross-section of our student body.”
Carlomagno said, “We’re very excited about this new option for Sonoma students. We did not make this decision lightly. The introduction of this first pathway is the result of two years of research, incorporating the existing strengths of Sonoma Valley High. Feedback from parents so far has been very positive. We expect this pathway to create skills sets in our students that are transferable across industry sectors and prepare them for the 21st-century option, not just a single career.”
One primary resource for the district in its research was ConnectEd California. Founded by the James Irvine Foundation in 2006, ConnectEd is the cornerstone of practice, policy and research aimed at helping young people prepare for both college and career through the high school improvement approach called Linked Learning. For more information, go to connectedcalifornia.org/.
Funding to research the Pathways option was made available by the Vadasz Family Foundation and James Irvine Foundation, along with support from the Sonoma Valley Education Foundation.
Further data about the Engineering, Design and Technology Pathway is available on the Sonoma Valley High website at sonomavalleyhigh.org.