Opinion
School & District Management Letter to the Editor

Teaching Students 21st-Century Skills Takes Time. It’s Worth It

January 05, 2016 1 min read

To the Editor:

There is a disconnect between how high schools are preparing students for their future lives and what those lives will ultimately look like. Are high schools preparing students for the colleges and careers of the 20th century, or those of the 21st century and beyond?

Because the future of work is unknown, educators are thinking hard about what exactly they should be teaching students that won’t be mechanized within their lifetimes.

There are experts who suggest general, flexible, insight-bearing human learning. Others propose teaching teamwork and complex communication skills so that students will be able to solve problems we can’t currently anticipate. Cognitive scientists stress concepts like “grit” and “mindset.”

Indeed, a comparison of those adults holding General Educational Development diplomas with regular high school graduates has demonstrated that “noncognitive skills” have a large impact on earnings.

Fortunately, noncognitive skills and IQ have been shown to be malleable. Learning how to learn—and wanting to do so—is a gift that teachers can give to their students; like educating students about the power of teamwork, the skill can be taught.

This is what is needed for the 21st century, and it can take time to teach it.

Preparing students for an unknown future requires curricula, pedagogy, and assessment—in high schools and colleges—that prepare students to solve adult problems, reflect the changing needs of society and the workplace, and recognize that many of those who started school in 2015 will still be active in another 50 years.

Arnold Packer

La Jolla, Calif.

The author was an assistant U.S. secretary of labor in the Carter administration, the chief economist for the Budget Committee of the U.S. Senate, and the executive director of the U.S. Secretary of Labor’s Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills under President George H. W. Bush. He is retired from Johns Hopkins University.

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the January 06, 2016 edition of Education Week as Teaching Students 21st-Century Skills Takes Time. It’s Worth It

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Measuring & Supporting Student Well-Being: A Researcher and District Leader Roundtable
Students’ social-emotional well-being matters. The positive and negative emotions students feel are essential characteristics of their psychology, indicators of their well-being, and mediators of their success in school and life. Supportive relationships with peers, school
Content provided by Panorama Education
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Making Digital Literacy a Priority: An Administrator’s Perspective
Join us as we delve into the efforts of our panelists and their initiatives to make digital skills a “must have” for their district. We’ll discuss with district leadership how they have kept digital literacy
Content provided by Learning.com
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
How Schools Can Implement Safe In-Person Learning
In order for in-person schooling to resume, it will be necessary to instill a sense of confidence that it is safe to return. BD is hosting a virtual panel discussing the benefits of asymptomatic screening
Content provided by BD

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School & District Management Is the Assistant Principal the Most Overlooked, Undervalued Person at School?
A new research review on assistant principals finds that the role is undefined and that support for these school leaders is inconsistent.
7 min read
 teachers and leaders looking around for direction
Mykyta Dolmatov/iStock/Getty Images Plus
School & District Management Opinion Pandemic Recovery Will Be Complex. We’ll Need the Best School Leaders
To face the education challenges of today and tomorrow, we must invest in the principal pipeline, writes Michael J. Petrilli.
Michael J. Petrilli
4 min read
Leader pointing hand forward, directing boat forward through corona virus crisis
iStock / Getty Images Plus
School & District Management Opinion The Year of Scourges: How I Survived Illness and Racism to Find My 'Tribe'
A Black school leader reflects on the hardest year of her professional life.
Reba Y. Hodge
4 min read
new growth on a bare tree
Vanessa Solis/Education Week & Getty Images
School & District Management From Our Research Center How the Pandemic Is Shaping K-12 Education (in Charts)
Surveys by the EdWeek Research Center show how schools have changed during the pandemic and what adjustments are likely to stick.
Eric DiVito gives breathing instructions as he teaches a remote music class at the Osborn School on Oct. 6, 2020, in Rye, N.Y.
Eric DiVito gives breathing instructions as he teaches a remote music class at the Osborn School in Rye, N.Y., last fall.
Mary Altaffer/AP