Raise the Bar with 21st Century Skills
As these latest PISA results show, the global talent pool is increasing. We urgently need to develop a globally oriented world-class educational system to prepare students in the United States with the knowledge and skills to succeed.
— Dr. Vivien Stewart, Vice President, Education, The Asia Society
- Concern that U.S. students aren’t keeping up with international peers
- Concern that U.S. graduates aren’t ready for work or higher education
- Interest in improving rigor and relevance for all students
- Community support for new knowledge/skills not covered by core subjects, high stakes tests/NCLB, or Common Core State Standards
To be an effective technology leader, it is vital superintendents understand the kind of education that students need today to be prepared for
- citizenship challenges
- personal success in an internationally competitive environment
There is growing concern among educators, parents, policymakers and the business community that K-12 education is not hitting its mark. While student achievement is improving, it is not improving fast enough or dramatically enough for students to keep pace with and, eventually compete with their peers internationally.
Further, there is a sense that students need to master more than basic skills and traditional core subjects to be prepared for the digital economy. There are new, different kinds of knowledge and skills that are valued by workplaces, communities and individuals. These skills are not taught as a matter of course in most schools today.
Internationally, the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA)
is fast becoming the new benchmark by which educational outcomes in reading, mathematics and science are measured. U.S. students are not faring well on this assessment compared with their peers in Canada, China, Finland, Germany, Japan, Korea and the United Kingdom, among many other nations.
Two other respected international assessments, the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS)
and the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS)
, yield similar findings. PISA is particularly telling, however, because it focuses on the application of knowledge in reading, mathematics and science to problems with a real-life context. The critical thinking and problem-solving skills that PISA measures are among those that many nations now are determined to teach.
Rigor and relevance also are the mantra of significant educational initiatives in the United States, including science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), high school reform and striving reader initiatives.
The Partnership for 21st Century Skills
, an advocacy organization made up of business, education and policy leaders, brings these strands together with its framework for 21st century learning
. A growing number of states, policymakers, business groups and educational leadership organizations, including CoSN, endorse this framework, which captures the new kinds of knowledge and skills that students need to master to succeed in workplaces, participate effectively in society and lead productive lives.
Action Steps for Superintendents and District Leadership Teams
- Understand the importance of 21st century skills
- Commit to improving your own 21st century skills
- Engage your school community in a dialogue about 21st century skills
- Set a vision for integrating 21st century skills into K–12 instructional programs
- Conduct an audit that matches 21st century skills with your district’s strategic plan, then revise the plan to address any gaps you find
- Develop and implement a professional development program for 21st century skills for you and your district leadership team
Getting Up To Speed
Bellanca, B., & Brandt, R. (Eds.). 21st Century Skills: Rethinking How Students Learn. Solution Tree Press, 2010.
Educators, Technology and 21st Century Skills: Dispelling the Myths
. Richard W. Riley College of Education and Leadership at Walden University, 2010.
Jenkins, H. Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2009.
November, A. C. Empowering Students with Technology. Corwin, 2010.
Pink, D. H. “A Whole New Mind Discussion Guide for Educators.” (set link) Penguin Group, 2005, 2006.
Schrum, L., & Levin, B. B. Leading 21st Century Schools: Harnessing Technology for Engagement and Achievement. Corwin, 2009.
Trilling, B., and Fadel, C. 21st Century Skills: Learning for Life in Our Times. Jossey-Bass, 2009.