Alt Ed Convening CollageOn Friday, May 12, over 70 educators from across the northern California region joined The Career Advancement Academy (CAA) and Career Ladders Project (CLP) for the first ever Exploring and Expanding Alternative High School Community College Partnership Convening held at the College of San Mateo. All three San Mateo County Community College District (SMCCD) Colleges and guests from across the region gathered to identify and highlight promising practices that lead to increased enrollment and retention for alternative high school students. Equal Measure, which serves as a third-party evaluator for the CAA programs, provided a conceptual framework to think about the alternative high school to community college transition work and identified research-based, nationwide best practices for opportunity youth programming. The event’s documented inquiry and learning will result in a published brief (late fall) for those exploring, building, refining, and scaling bridge programs aimed at connecting alternative education students to college and career.

In California, ‘alternative school’ refers to seven types of schools and programs that provide different educational settings for students who are behind in school. During the 2014-2015 academic year, California had 973 alternative schools, enrolling 136,587 students. This represents 10% of all schools in California, with about 12 percent of all seniors finishing 12th grade at an alternative school. By creating a “bridge to the bridge,” the Career Advancement Academy aims to scale their most promising and effective innovations and increase alignment and collaboration with education feeder partners—especially adult education, continuation high schools, and alternative high schools.

This community of practice sought to gather experts, practitioners, and partners to exchange ideas, test and get feedback on promising practices, and provide educators a time and space to connect with colleagues engaged in similar work. In the morning, attendees received a national and state overview of alternative education and community college connective work, followed by a county overview with each SMCCCD college presenting on a current or impending innovative program. Skyline College showcased the Baden Alternative High School College and Career Readiness course, a CAA dual enrollment bridge program created in collaboration with Skyline College and Baden High School Faculty and Staff. This spring semester, the fourth cohort had 100% successful completion rate and all cohorts have an average Skyline College connection (enrollment) rate of 70% post-bridge program.

A special thanks to all of the day’s presenters, the facilitators and event organizers who helped make the convening such a success including: Elisha Arrillaga and the team from CLP, Jennifer Taylor Mendoza Dean of Academic Support and Learning Technologies at the College of San Mateo, Anniqua Rana, Dean of Athletics, Kinesiology, Dance, Library at Cañada college, along with the Meg Long and Georgia Kioukis from Equal Measure who framed the day and documented the shared learning. The Alternative Education community of practice will continue to engage in idea and resource exchange via an online community of learning and keep the conversation going for folks deeply engaged in the important work of connecting alternative high school students to college and career.

The Career Advancement Academy connects students to higher wage careers and opportunities in higher education by integrating accelerated and contextualized English and math, career technical education, and integrated student support. Currently, the Career Advancement Academy has programs in Allied Health, Automotive Technology, Biotechnology, and Legal Careers with additional bridge programming at Baden High School and Goodwill Industries. For more information about the Career Advancement Academy or related programs, please contact Jeremy Evangelista, or visit .

Article by Alina Varona || Photos by Dan Figueroa