The 21st Century Skills Movement - ASCD
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September 1, 2009

The 21st Century Skills Movement

Since 2002, the Partnership for 21st Century Skills has been the leading advocacy organization in the United States focused on infusing 21st century skills into education. Its Framework for 21st Century Learning, the result of a consensus among hundreds of stakeholders, describes the skills, knowledge, and expertise students need to succeed in work and life.

  • Educators recommended a combination of rigorous courses imparting both core content knowledge and skills to engage students and increase achievement.

  • Civic and community groups outlined a set of 21st century skills and knowledge that citizens in a participatory democracy must possess.

  • Business leaders identified skills and knowledge they perceive as essential for success in the workplace.

  1. Core subjects and 21st century themes (such as language arts, mathematics, science, global awareness, and financial literacy).

  2. Learning and innovation skills (such as creativity and innovation and critical thinking and problem solving).

  3. Information, media, and technology skills.

  4. Life and career skills (such as initiative and self-direction).

Each stakeholder group independently identified these skills, supporting the need for students to develop deep content knowledge and the ability to apply that knowledge across disciplines.

To provide educators with concrete solutions from the field, the partnership collaborated with the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, the National Council of Teachers of English, the National Council for the Social Studies, the National Science Teachers Association, and the National Council for Geographic Education to craft core subject maps that show how to infuse 21st century skills into core classes.

In 2005, the partnership began the State Leadership Program. To date, 13 states—Arizona, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina, South Dakota, West Virginia, and Wisconsin—have joined the program. Leadership states develop standards, assessments, and professional development programs to ensure that students have the 21st century skills they need. To join, states must demonstrate strong commitment from their governor, superintendent, and other stakeholder groups.

To successfully face rigorous higher-education coursework and a globally competitive work environment, schools must align classroom environments and core subjects with 21st century skills. By combining both skills and content, educators can impart the expertise required for success in today's world.

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