Here's How Irvine is Pushing Forward Its Signature Education Program

The James Irvine Foundation recently announced a new round of grants totaling nearly $21 million, with more than half of that total focused on Linked Learning, the funder's signature education program. The San Francisco-based funder, which focuses its grantmaking on California, awarded $12.7 million in funds to nonprofits across the Golden State in support of Linked Learning.

Linked Learning is an approach to college and career readiness that emphasizes career pathways by linking a rigorous academic curriculum with career knowledge, real-world work experience opportunities, and support services that include counseling and supplemental instruction. Irvine hopes that Linked Learning will forge stronger connections between California's K-12 and higher education systems. All grants awarded in this latest round are for a two-year period.

These grants from Irvine reveal a strategic, three-pronged approach that emphasizes policy, practice, and public advocacy. On the policy front, Irvine awarded $400,000 to Children Now to push for the adoption of a K-12 accountability system in California that promotes college and career readiness. Children Now is a national policy research, development and advocacy organization.

Irvine will also match its support of policy advocacy by engaging a broad range of public education constituencies to advocate for greater college and career readiness among California youth. The funder awarded $450,000 to EdSource to advance broader understanding of college and career readiness.

The bulk of the Linked Learning funds awarded by Irvine are aimed at practice and demonstrate the funder's goal of building stronger ties between K-12 and higher education. The foundation awarded four grants, worth more than $11 million, to the following organizations:

  • National Academy Foundation, which received $4 million to support the expansion of work-based learning experiences and greater employer engagement
  • ConnectEd: the California Center for College and Career, which was awarded $4 million to build capacity at the state and local levels for statewide adoption of Linked Learning
  • Foundation for California Community Colleges, which received $2 million to support the expansion of Linked Learning into the state's community colleges
  • Center for Powerful Public Schools, which was awarded $1.98 million to develop, implement, and scale a regional K-16 Linked Learning system in Los Angeles County, home of the state's largest public school system, the Los Angeles Unified School District.

With nearly half of all new jobs created in California requiring at least some level of postsecondary education, the state faces a serious work force shortage unless measures are taken to increase the number of college-educated young people. Children Now reports that Linked Learning participants are more likely to be on track for postsecondary success.

No doubt Irvine will pay close attention to this latest series of grants. Earlier this year, the funder supported research and evaluation efforts to assess the impact of Linked Learning.