Standards News in Brief

‘Common Core’ Group Takes Aim at Move For 21st-Century Skills

By Sean Cavanagh — September 22, 2009 1 min read

Common Core, a Washington-based group that calls for giving students strong grounding across academic disciplines, has organized an open letter arguing that the Partnership for 21st Century Skills’ learning goals risk “undermining the quality of education in America,” and urging that they be revised.

The letter, released last week, is signed by Chester E. Finn Jr., the president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute; Core Knowledge founder E.D. Hirsch Jr.; the education historian Diane Ravitch; John Silber, the retired president of Boston University; and Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, among others.

The partnership, or P21, is an advocacy organization that promotes students’ acquisition of a broad range of critical-thinking and analytical skills, including technological know-how, communication, and collaboration. Common Core says that the P21 program “marginalizes knowledge and therefore will deny students the liberal education they need,” and that skill is useless “without prior knowledge of a wide array of subjects.”

Ken Kay, P21s president, said: We have never advocated, in any context, the teaching of 21st-century skills separate from content. ... You cant just teach students to think; you have to teach them to critically think, problem-solve, and innovate about something. Knowledge is the base of learning.

A version of this article appeared in the September 23, 2009 edition of Education Week

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