Education Funding Opinion

Three Key Players for 21st Century Skills

By John Wilson — April 02, 2012 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

As I sat in the audience of the International Summit on the Teaching Profession listening to ministers of education and union leaders from around the world discuss 21st century skills, I could not help but wonder if other countries were once again going to take American ideas and use them to surpass us. The United States began having serious conversations about a framework for 21st century skills almost 10 years ago. Books have been written, some school districts have created excellent practices, politicians have talked the talk, and still, we have not fully integrated these skills into our academic content. If not now, when?

The time has come for educators, business people, and government officials to get serious and provide support for every school in America to become a true 21st century center for learning. To support a rigorous education for all students, we must integrate communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity skills (the 4Cs) into a curriculum that engages students and expands their learning beyond the four walls of a classroom. Thankfully, there are three key players that are serving as catalysts to launch American education into this new era of technological innovation.

First, there is the Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21) led by Tim Magner, former Director of the Office of Educational Technology. Over 30 businesses such as Pearson, Cisco, Dell, Verizon, Apple, and Intel and professional organizations such as the National Education Association and the American Association of School Librarians have come together and designed the Framework for 21st Century Learning. This framework has become the lighthouse guiding state education agencies who are leaders in this effort. States such as AZ, IL, IA, KS, KY, LA, ME, MA, NV, NJ, NC, OH, SD, SC, WV, and WI have embraced this framework and have created initiatives to integrate this work into their system of education. Did you notice that there are a lot more states that need to become partners with P21? And did you also notice that there are a lot more businesses and organizations that need to join P21 in this effort? If not now, when?

Second, there is EdLeader 21. This is a learning community of about 86 school districts that is serious about graduating 21st century learners. Ken Kay who founded P21 initiated this important program. The group has created seven steps for education leaders that will assure every student will be ready for citizenship and the economic challenges of the 21st century. They are the following: (1.) Adapt your Vision of 21st Century Outcomes and LEAD! (2.) Create a Community Consensus. (3.) Align your System. (4.) Build Professional Capacity. (5.) Embed the 4Cs in Curriculum and Assessment. (6.) Support Teachers in the Classroom. (7.) Improve and Innovate. There are over 14,000 school districts in the United States. Every district needs to be a part of this learning community. If not now, when?

Third, there is the Office of Educational Technology led by the very capable Karen Cator. Karen formerly directed the leadership and advocacy efforts in education for Apple. She is also a past chair of P21. Under her leadership, a new National Education Technology Plan has been developed. As described on their website, “this plan addresses the five essential components of learning powered by technology: learning, assessment, teaching, infrastructure, and productivity.” This office has initiated some very relevant and creative programs. Their work should be a critical part of the major initiatives of the administration of President Obama and Secretary Duncan. Sometimes the language is worked into their speeches, but we need to see the substance worked into legislation, regulations, and funding opportunities that are driving the reform in our schools districts. If not now, when?

The United States can be a leader in aligning our education system with the new world that has captured the attention of our students. We can lead the way into the innovation economy. We can plant our flag at the top of the world rankings for education achievement. If not now, when?

The opinions expressed in John Wilson Unleashed are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


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.
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
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.
Curriculum Webinar
How Data and Digital Curriculum Can Drive Personalized Instruction
As we return from an abnormal year, it’s an educator’s top priority to make sure the lessons learned under adversity positively impact students during the new school year. Digital curriculum has emerged from the pandemic
Content provided by Kiddom
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.
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Leadership for Racial Equity in Schools and Beyond
While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to reveal systemic racial disparities in educational opportunity, there are revelations to which we can and must respond. Through conscientious efforts, using an intentional focus on race, school leaders can
Content provided by Corwin

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

Education Funding Reported Essay Are We Asking Schools to Do Too Much?
Schools are increasingly being saddled with new responsibilities. At what point do we decide they are being overwhelmed?
5 min read
Conceptual Illustration
Pep Montserrat for Education Week
Education Funding Interactive Look Up How Much COVID Relief Aid Your School District is Getting
The federal government gave schools more than $190 billion to help them recover from the pandemic. But the money was not distributed evenly.
2 min read
Education Funding Explainer Everything You Need to Know About Schools and COVID Relief Funds
How much did your district get in pandemic emergency aid? When must the money be spent? Is there more on the way? EdWeek has the answers.
11 min read
090221 Stimulus Masks AP BS
Dezirae Espinoza wears a face mask while holding a tube of cleaning wipes as she waits to enter Garden Place Elementary School in Denver for the first day of in-class learning since the start of the pandemic.
David Zalubowski/AP
Education Funding Why Dems' $82 Billion Proposal for School Buildings Still Isn't Enough
Two new reports highlight the severe disrepair the nation's school infrastructure is in and the crushing district debt the lack of federal and state investment has caused.
4 min read
Founded 55 years ago, Foust Elementary received its latest update 12-25 years ago for their HVAC units. If the school receives funds from the Guilford County Schools bond allocation, they will expand classrooms from the back of the building.
Community members in Guilford, N.C. last week protested the lack of new funding to improve the district's crumbling school facilities.
Abby Gibbs/News & Record via AP