Learning First Alliance

Strengthening public schools for every child

How Can the 4 C's Be Used to Achieve Common Core State Standards?

Cheryl S. Williams's picture

Editor's Note: This post first appeared on the Partnership for 21st Century Skills’ blog in July 2012. Reposted with permission.

As both a former classroom teacher and long-time nonprofit executive, I'm well aware of the importance of creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, and communication (the Four C's) to success in both the classroom and the workplace. So I've been a strong supporter of imbedding the acquisition of those skills into formal education even before the inception of the Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21) and the creation of the impressive tools that have resulted from the P21 work. Also, I've been impressed with the thoughtful (and collaborative) work that's gone into the creation of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for mathematics and English language arts that pull together the wisdom of practitioners and researchers in the education field to establish goals and benchmarks for what students should know and be able to do in order to be successful in the 21st century world of work and citizenship. And, all sixteen member organizations in the Learning First Alliance share that commitment to providing rigor and relevance to all of the students we serve.

With that in mind, I've been mystified by some of the resistance to implementation of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), which to date have been adopted by 45 states and the District of Columbia, based on two complaints: (1) that the CCSS are a "top down" over reach of the Federal government and (2) that the adoption of these standards and the common assessments that are being developed to measure student progress will lead teachers to "teach to the test", thus robbing the classroom of the dynamics that make learning fun and rewarding. The first complaint is just plain inaccurate since we know that teams of educators and scholars that included both practitioners and researchers have been collaborating for years and looking to international benchmarks to develop the CCSS under the leadership of the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and the National Governors Association (NGA). But the presumed push that the CCSS will give to the practice of "teaching to the test", a complaint voiced by educators as well as those outside the profession, has left me disappointed in the level of creative thinking from some education professionals.

The CCSS sets benchmarks for WHAT students should know and be able to do, not HOW we teach the subjects. And, to my mind, this is where the four C's are crucial to raising student achievement in the new world of Common Core Standards. For states, districts, schools, and classrooms that incorporate creativity, collaboration, critical thinking and communication into the teaching and learning process with both staff and students, the journey towards achieving success with the new and more rigorous standards will be an exciting and successful one. To the extent we can work together to master the skills needed for success in the 21st century by modeling them in learning to a higher level, public education in the United States will be the beacon of the work and the "look to" system for other countries to emulate. Our students deserve nothing less; we as education leaders could give them nothing more important.

The creative thinkers in the Learning First Alliance have contributed their thoughts on teaching and learning to the new Common Core State Standards in a regular blog post on Education Week and can be found at the following sites:

There is Much to Get Right...or Wrong...About the Common Core

Don't Politicize the Common Core State Standards!

Preparing for a Different Kind of Middle Grades Classroom

Ten Steps in the Right Direction: How Feds Can Strengthen Public Education

Connecting Professional Learning Standards to the Common Core