How This School Is Creating Pathways to College and Career

Authentic learning is an integral component for student success in school. When students know and believe in why they are learning, and see value in the work they produce, then they develop a purposeful identity as a learner. The Deeper Learning movement is providing a variety of models in which students can see significance in their self, their learning and their future. This exciting movement, which is comprised of a diverse education village, is working together towards improved achievement for all students. Esmeralda, a sophomore student at Applied Technology Center HS (ATC) in Montebello, California is going to be the first person in her family to graduate college. In fact, she is already earning college credits toward her career. Her preparation and confidence stems from a community of support and a school that values authentic learning for students. “I want to pursue a career in architecture. ATC put me on that pathway," explained Esmeralda.
Through my college courses I have learned that I really enjoy drafting and drawing. After graduation I want to go directly to a four-year university. Being in a pathway school opens up a lot of doors for students. When I talk to students they are all very driven because you have a pathway immediately after you enter the school. It prepares you for the career of your choice.
Here are some key elements that make up “authentic learning” and how these elements improve success for all students.

Personalized Learning

There is a lot of buzz and excitement around a personalized approach to learning and how it can create equitable learning opportunities for students. When we rethink mastery and ways in which students demonstrate learning, we open up new opportunities for access and opportunity for all learners. Great Schools Partnership has been doing important work in the Northeastern United States by redesigning public education to improve equitable, personalized learning for all students. New Tech Network is excited to work with this organization through our partnership with Pinellas County Schools in Florida.

Project-Based Learning, Community Connections & Real World Products

Project-Based Learning (PBL) connects students with real world problems and product creation. This call to action in learning makes students see a world beyond themselves and that the learning that they do is important and authentic. PBL also teaches students how to work collaboratively—both in learning groups and with external and community partners. These skills teach students how to be excellent colleagues in future college- and career-ventures. Our New Tech Network learning outcomes focus on whole child learning and capacity building and provide structures for facilitators to explicitly teach and provide feedback on integral factors for successful learning for all students.

Post-Secondary Connections

Of all the reasons we believe students should be in school for 13 years, college- and career-readiness is at the core. Authentic learning explicitly references the purpose of learning beyond the k-12 structure and integrates college and career. Schools, like Big Picture schools, which cultivate learning through internships allow students to pursue their passions and elevate learning in a cohort context with advisors and exhibitions. These examples of explicit post-secondary connections are representative of a variety of ways in which all students can participate in deeper learning and learn more authentically about who they are and how they want to be successful in the future.


In order for genuine learning to occur, students and schools need to be culturally aligned. I’m proud of the work New Tech Network does in helping schools and districts authentically reimagine teaching and learning for their students and improve student achievement. The core cultural tenets of trust, respect and responsibility enable all people within a school to develop authentic relationships with each other and with the learning. In addition, the collaboration available through a network helps build cross-school relationships with deeper learning on a national level. Authentic learning is integral for all students to experience success in school. The structures that comprise authentic learning implicitly and explicitly provide more equitable and meaningful learning experiences for all students. Students find relevance in their experiences and grow into an identity of a life-long learner; in order to change the world. Too often, students of color and students who face challenging circumstances don’t receive the support and encouragement they need to succeed. They are held to lower standards because of a belief gap between what society believes they can achieve and what they truly are capable of when we believe in them. Here at New Tech Network, we work to close that gap.
An original version of this post appeared on New Tech Network as Authentic Learning: The Pathway to All Student Success.
Kelly Camak
Kelly Camak is a school development coach for New Tech Network.

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