U.S. Dept. of Education checks out HISD’s Linked Learning

Visit by U.S. Department of Education Assistant Secretary for Innovation and Improvement, Nadya Chinoy Dabby, to Eastwood Academy. (Houston Independent School District)

Nadya Chinoy Dabby visited Eastwood Academy on Oct. 22, 2014.

U.S. Department of Education Assistant Deputy Secretary for Innovation and Improvement, Nadya Chinoy Dabby, toured Eastwood Academy and visited several HISD Apollo 20 campuses Wednesday. She visited the campuses to see the progress that has been made through the federal Race to The Top grant that HISD was awarded 10 months ago.

The $30 million grant is helping to fund the district’s new Linked Learning approach that places real-life career experiences in the classroom. The initiative launched this school year beginning with 40 schools.

During the tour, Dabby and HISD Linked Learning Assistant Superintendent Adam Stephens spent part of the morning watching elementary and middle school students participate in hands-on activities at Junior Achievement’s Biztown and Finance Park, an interactive community with business models created to teach students about career readiness, entrepreneurship, and money management.

“That work is really aligned with the new financial literacy math TEKS that went into effect this year,” Stephens said. “We’re also going to tour a few high schools to let her see what the first state of the implementation of the Linked Learning approach looks like.”

After visiting several classrooms at Eastwood, Dabby applauded the efforts HISD has made to ensure students have what they need to be successful in school and life. “There’s the PowerUp piece, which is about core technology,” Dabby said. “There’s the Linked Learning piece, which is more about how we integrate robust, real world-based experience within the school. Making sure that all of that is aligned is what it takes to be successful.”

This year, eight high schools were the first to use the Linked Learning approach, which requires students to choose a career subject pathway, based on their interests and abilities, which will guide future work-based learning opportunities. Eastwood Academy, also a Phase II PowerUp high school, was one of the first Linked Learning cohorts.

Dabby said she appreciates the work HISD has done to make these academic improvements a smooth transition for students, staff and schools. “Here you’re doing all of these pieces (Linked Learning, PowerUp) at once. People often think about sequencing. You’re doing something that’s pretty comprehensive and trying to do it all cohesively, coherently and systematically, which I think is really important. … I certainly laud you all for taking that on, because I think it’s the right thing to do.”