21st Century Skills
Wagner devotes a good deal of text explaining how the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation from the Bush administration impedes the ability of schools to promote the skills needed in today's workplace. While well-intentioned, NCLB brought forth high-stakes testing and distracted teachers from emphasizing the skills necessary to thrive in the 21st Century. Wagner has sought and found these "survival skills" as he calls them through countless discussions, interviews, and research. NCLB is set to expire soon and the current administration is planning to replace it with something called Common Core State Standards or CCSS. This plan affirms some of Wagner's survival skills in addition to creating a "Common Core" of standards for all states. In addition to Common Core, the Partnership for 21st Century Learning (P21) has also done some research in finding the most critical skills needed in today's workplace. The skills they strive to encourage in schools today align with, and support Wagner's survival skills. Through much research with businesses, civic leaders, and educational professionals, the Partnership for 21st Century Learning mimics what Wagner did in his book in identifying the skills most necessary for survival in the 21st Century workplace. Wagner's prescribed skills are supported by our nation, the Partnership for 21st Century Learning, and are completely valid.
Do Common Core Standards support Wagner's Seven Skills?
Common Core also calls for high order thinking skills as a means to achieve career and college readiness for all students (P21, 2011). In the IAASE Winter conference, Brian Pete, the author of, How to Teach Thinking Skills Within Common Core: Seven Key Student Proficiencies of the New National Standards, wrote that the key to implementing the CCSS with relevancy, is to address them with explicit teaching of higher order thinking skills that are embedded in rich subject matter content (Pete 2013). He goes on to list the syllabus of seven thinking skill sets, though not an exact match of Wagner's Seven Skills, but close enough to conclude we do feel the CCSS do support Wagner's research. The skills listed by Pete are as follows:
1. Critical Thinking - analyze, evaluate, problem solve
2. Creative Thinking - generate, associate, hypothesize
3. Complex Thinking - clarify, interpret, determine
4. Comprehensive Thinking - understand, infer compare
5. Collaborative Thinking - explain, develop, decide
6. Communicative Thinking - reason, connect, represent
7. Cognitive Transfer of Thinking - synthesize, generalize, apply
Susan Headden, senior writer and editor at Education Sector, wrote about these updated standards in Washington Monthly:
"While not a unified national curriculum, the common core will lay down a set of high, unified standards--rubrics that define what students should be able to know and do by, say, the end of third grade. Those standards will be enough to defragment the American testing market. With them will come a set of completely new, interactive, computerized tests that promise to be much like what you'd find in Singapore or Australia or an AP classroom--exams that test higher-order thinking by asking students to show, in a variety of different ways, whether they have mastered a set of working concepts."
With an emphasis on thinking skills and changing the way we assess students, we believe that the Common Core does, indeed, support the work of Wagner.
Tim Magner talks about the importance of 21st century skills (American Way magazine interview)
In an interview, Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21) Executive Director, Tim Magner, discusses his coalition that brings together the business community, education leaders, and policymakers to position 21st century readiness at the center of US K-12 education and to kick-start a national conversation on the importance of 21st century skills for all students (P21, 2011).
Over the past decade, many organizations such as P21 have advocated for standards that adequately address both the core academic knowledge and the complex thinking skills that are required for success in college, life and career in the 21st century. Partnership for 21st Century Skills urges the integration of the CCSS into teaching and learning in ways that honor the fusion of the 3Rs and 4Cs (critical thinking and problem solving, communication, collaboration, and creativity and innovation) (P21, 2011).
Why do students need 21st century skills? The Partnership of 21st Century addresses the need for 21st century skills in this statement;
"Every child in America needs to be ready for today’s and tomorrow’s world. A profound gap exists between the knowledge and skills most students learn in school and the knowledge and skills they need for success in their communities and workplaces. To successfully face rigorous higher education coursework, career challenges and a globally competitive workforce, U.S. schools must align classroom environments with real world environments by fusing the three Rs and four Cs." (P21, 2011)
The P21 Common Core Toolkit supports the efforts of all states, districts and schools who implement Common Core State Standards and support ongoing 21st century skills initiatives. This toolkit provides an overview of how P21 framework and CCSS align and support each other, while in turn, supporting Wagner’s research.
Additional documents from P21 that show everything in a trifold brochure, discuss the framework, and framework definitions.
Above and Beyond
To get the word out to about the “3Rs + 4Cs” approach, P21 and FableVision partnered to produce a short, animated film called Above & Beyond. Enjoy & share, so we can help ALL our students flourish in the 21st century.