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21st Century Skills

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We have access to a lot of good sound research and information in today’s information age. Education practitioners, those working in schools and districts, are ultimately responsible for overseeing system-wide changes, but they rarely have time to sift through data and evidence to identify sound research that might offer guidance for their respective district or school. Therefore, those higher up in district administration are more likely to be the ones assessing available research and working to support struggling schools. Taking action on sound research requires strong networks and strong communication among system professionals to move the evidence and information down to the school level. Ultimately, even if the research is good, it does not guarantee change. The system must be prepared to implement the necessary steps to produce changes in student performance. In fact, research suggests that an emphasis on the technical aspects of improvements leads us to overlook the relational component to system-wide change. ...

The arrival of 2013 brings us one year closer to the rollout of Common Core State Standard (CCSS) assessments, scheduled for 2014-15. As the deadline approaches, the complexities surrounding implementation of the standards and their accompanying assessments come into sharper focus. The issues listed below are hardly exhaustive, but they begin to convey the challenges of implementation facing our nation’s schools and districts. ...

To close out the 2012 calendar year, the Learning First Alliance is pleased to bring you the five most viewed success stories from our collection of more than 160 stories housed on our site. Criteria for inclusion is relatively straight forward – the story must show that a school, district or state identified a challenge, addressed it and produced positive results through their efforts. These results are measured in a variety of ways, from increased graduation rates or decreased dropout rates, to improved standardized test scores or positive outcomes in student health and behavior. Other indicators may revolve around parent engagement or improved classroom performance.

These stories were selected based on our Google Analytics numbers that reflect our audience views from the past year. We wish you happy reading and a Happy New Year!

5. Iowa’s Statewide Voluntary Preschool Program for Four-Year Olds ...

obriena's picture

Getting Back to the Top

We often hear that the United States has dropped to 16th in the world when it comes to the percentage of adults who earn college degrees – it is a talking point used consistently by both U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and President Obama. And the Administration is calling for us to regain the lead in this arena, for the good of the nation.

But is the situation really so simple? As with so many education claims, do we do ourselves a disservice when we accept these statements and goals at face value? In a recent report, Getting Back on Top: An International Comparison of College Attainment, Where the U.S. Stands, the National School Boards Association's Center for Public Education unpacked the data behind these talking points. And some of their findings were a bit surprising.

It turns out that the United States ranks second in the world – behind only Norway – when it comes to the percentage of adults age 25-64 with a bachelor's degree or better (32%). However, we rank 18th in the world in the percentage of adults with a two-year degree (10%). Without differentiating between the two, we rank 5th in the world among the percentage of adults with degrees, at ...

Tarsi Dunlop's picture

Born in Another Time

If you are ever curious about the nuances and challenges of local policy-making and governance, look no further than the U.S public education system. When you consider the statistics and actors – nearly 14,000 school districts, 95,000 principals and more than 90,000 school board members – it is no wonder that public schools see higher levels of success when local leaders come together to collaborate and develop solutions.

The National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE) represents the state boards of education that govern and design education policy at the state level. These bodies set the tone, agenda, and overall vision for their state. One area in which their leadership is urgently needed: education technology. To that end, NASBE recently commissioned a study group, whose core composition consisted of 18-20 state board members, that produced Born in Another Time: Ensuring Educational Technology Meets the Needs of Students Today – and Tomorrow.  This report puts forth a vision for education technology in our nation’s public schools, along with key recommendations on how to get there. In essence, it takes a big, bold vision for 21st century learners and ...

While a college education is acknowledged to be the pathway into the middle class, getting into the higher education system requires an understanding of the application process. For many first generation college students, especially those who are from low-income families, the process is daunting with an overwhelming amount of information and countless choices. My own experience, with significant support from my high-school guidance counselor and an involved parent who did the financial aid forms, was stressful and at times confusing, and not everyone has the type of support I had. ...

The civic mission of schools has a tendency to get lost in the din of other debates surrounding our nation’s education system. Beyond the uproar over teacher evaluations, standardized testing and the role of government, we must keep in mind the fundamental purposes of public education, the heart and soul of a public system.

This civic purpose of public education seeks to empower our nation’s children, and future leaders, with a deep seated understanding of citizenship, civic duty and societal needs. It aims to provide the very tools needed for future generations to participate in the debates surrounding not just education policy, but other critical issues we as a nation – and member of the global community – face in the twenty first century.  Education is more than just factual knowledge, and civic engagement and participation depend on a deeper understanding of our culture, society and history. ...

By Tim Magner, Executive Director, Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21)

Despite many education experts, business leaders, and higher education professionals joining the bandwagon to implement and highlight 21st century skills and helping define the now 10-year old 21st century skills movement, there’s been an important missing element: Research in the arena of 21st century skills to date has been scarce. With the release of the National Research Council's report Education for Life and Work: Developing Transferable Knowledge and Skills in the 21st Century, we now have additional confirmation to support both the abundant opinion research and anecdotal evidence we have used over the years to advocate the importance and value of an education that includes both knowledge and skills. 

P21 commends the National Research Council (NRC) and the sponsors of the report for producing the most comprehensive research-based articulation of the case for 21st Century skills to date. The caliber and breadth of the research community brought together on this effort speaks to not only its importance in the future of our education system, but to the impact these findings will have across the K-12 education spectrum.  This report represents a historic validation of what the 21st century skills education community has worked hard to ...

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 ...

As with many developments in public education, when you hear about a “public private partnership”, you would do well to ask a few follow-up questions. For example, you might wonder about the true business interests – given that many entities are profit-driven. If the company has a foundation arm providing grants, what are their metrics pushing for schools or districts to demonstrate? To what extent does the business respect education experts and maintain a respectful distance from policy decisions?  Are these programs operating in traditional public schools and are they successfully expanding? Do these programs support equity? In an era where tax dollars are scarce and public schools are struggling under the challenges of tightening budgets, it is tempting to cite examples of cross community collaboration as a possible solution to school funding issues. However, not all partnerships are the same when you compare quality, mission or implementation, and continued questioning is essential. ...

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