At-risk San Diego students get linked-learning boost

At-risk San Diego students get linked-learning boost

(Calif.) Three San Diego school districts have been awarded $1.2 million to undertake a novel program aimed at exposing students early to work-based learning.

Boston-based American Student Assistance, a longtime nonprofit loan guarantor that now focuses on preparing students to make informed choices and achieve their education and career goals, is providing the grants allowing 38 schools to participate in project-based curriculum that relies on psychological testing to help guide students into careers or vocations that best match their personalities.

“ASA’s mission to help students know themselves, know their options, and make informed decisions to achieve their education and career goals, said David Miyashiro, superintendent of the Cajon Valley Union School District, which piloted the World of Work program last year.

“We've seen a significant increase in student self-awareness and articulation of possible future selves in relation to career aspirations,” he said in a statement. “This scale-up and research partnership is how we can reverse the trends of $1.5 trillion in student loan debt and the more than 50 percent college dropout rate.”

Miyashiro, who has been superintendent at Cajon for six years, was an early supporter of project-base curriculum, also known as linked learning, where rigorous academics are merged with real-world experiences to produce a much more robust learning experience than traditional classes.

To move the district’s program forward, Miyashiro hired a former executive from nearby Qualcomm to serve as innovation director. From there, the district began integrating a personality test widely used in the private sector to channel workers into jobs that they would like and potentially thrive.

The test, developed more than 60 years ago by psychologist John Holland, isolates six personality types: realistic; investigative; artistic; social; enterprising and conventional.

The World of Work program was then developed with the help of researchers from the University of San Diego who used the personality data to expose students to the most suitable work-based curriculum.

In El Cajon, students from kindergarten to the 8th grade could have as many as 54 different career-based learning options.

The districts awarded the grant money are:

  • Grossmont Union High School: Grades 9-12 across 10 schools and 16,532 students.
  • La Mesa-Spring Valley Schools: Grades TK-8 across 23 schools and 12,100 students.
  • Vista Unified School District: Grades 6-8 across five schools and 4,552 students.

According to a fund-raising memo used to pitch donors, much of the money needed by the districts will be used to train teachers and school staff in the overall World of Work program. As proposed, the San Diego grants will reach more than 33,000 students—many of them from low-income families, as well as 1,700 teachers. more