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As a master’s program student of Walden University course 6710, Understanding the Impact of Technology on Education, Work, and Society, this week I was required to review the website, Partnership for 21st Century Skills.

The Partnership for 21st Century Skills is an organization that was established in 2002.  Their mission is to “Serve as a catalyst to position 21st century skills at the center of US K-12 education by building collaborative partnerships among education, business, community, and government leaders.” (Partnership for 21st Century Skills, 2004) It was impressive to see over 230 business organizations involved in this organization.  As I continued through the site to explore what this organization is capable of, I found an excellent resource in the Route 21 link.  Route 21 is a free, online, interactive tool that is sponsored by The Partnership for 21st Century Skills.  Its purpose is to provide tools and resources to facilitate the use of 21st century skills in education.  Over 6500 members have the ability to browse, as well as, contribute to the resources available for educators committed to making a change in their schools.  The over 200 video resources, Route 21 Snapshots, available through George Lucas Educational Foundation’s Edutopia, gave examples of 21st century skills being taught in the classroom. Their annually published MILE guide, which included a self assessment tool for districts that are involved in this program, is a good resource of strategies for teachers.  It also gives the district a method of evaluating their progress as a district involved in Partnership for 21st Century Skills.

As I delved deeper into the program I began to ask more critical questions of the program.  Where are the specifics for the framework?  An additional concern that I have is, why is it that in seven years only fourteen states have embraced this program as something of value?   Input from researchers in the field of education along with the voices of educators and corporate America have established that there is definitely a need for change.  My concern is that The Partnership for 21st Century Skills is based on a great deal of theory with little research to support participation in their program.  When searching for research studies on the program’s success, I found websites and several blogs opposing this program.  The main argument of those that oppose the program is a fear that core curriculum will be lost or “dumbed down”.  The website Common Core gave valid points and had several blogs to interact with on the topic as well as many news links on the topic.  In addition to the Common Core website, I found many blogs opposing the Partnership for 21st Century Skills program.  Daniel Willingham, the author of Why Don’t Students Like School? A Cognitive Scientist Answers Questions About How the Mind Works and What It Means for the Classroom, , has a blog with topics on education, one of them being, Flawed Assumptions Undergird the Program at the Partnership for 21st-Century Skills.

As an educator that is in full support of 21st Century Skills being a critical component of the classroom of today, I am still not sold on the program offered by Partnership for 21st Century Skills.  I am not, by any means, opposing The Partnership for 21st Century Skills.  I am just not convinced of its value just yet.  I am in full support of improving the, all too lacking, critical thinking skills, problem solving skills, and creativity of our students, but the last thing that I am interested in, is indulging in a new found idea in education.  Most individuals involved in education are leery of new, unproven programs, therefore making them apprehensive when it comes to implementing new ideas.  Good educators work too hard to meet expectations.  Time is precious, and good educators do not have it to waste on unproven programs.


Common Core (February, 2009). Debating “21st Century Skills”, retrieved from http://www.commoncore.org/p21.php

Edutopia (2009). Edutopia The George Lucas Educational Foundation, retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/

The Partnership for 21st Century Skills (2009). The MILE Guide: Milestones for Improving Learning and Education, retrieved from http://www.21stcenturyskills.org/documents/MILE_Guide_091101.pdf

Partnership for 21st Century Skills (2004). Partnership for 21st Century Skills, retrieved from http://www.21stcenturyskills.org/

Route 21(2007). Route 21, retrieved from http://www.21stcenturyskills.org/route21/index.php

Route 21 (2007). Route 21 Snapshots, retrieved from http://www.21stcenturyskills.org/route21/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=92&Itemid=163

Willingham, D. (March, 2009).  Flawed Assumptions Undergird the Program at the Partnership for 21st-Century Skills, retrieved from http://www.britannica.com/blogs/2009/03/flawed-assumptions-undergird-the-partnership-for-21st-century-skills-movement-in-education/

4 Responses to “The Partnership for 21st Century Skills, Good or Bad?”

  1. jsorg1 says:

    I also share your concerns regarding the lack of data or mention of ongoing research to support the effectiveness of the Partnership of 21st Century Skills coalition. It seemed odd to me that the U.S. Department of Education, supported by Senator Rockefeller from Virginia, would allocate $100 million dollars to those states (“Rockefeller Calls for Comprehensive Education Reform to Provide Students with Job Skills”, 2009) and not stipulate certain mandates be met. Although their list of supporters and committee members is quite impressive, it struck me as strange that there was no mention of top researchers or institutions of higher education mentioned among them. I surmise from your research that we are not the only ones calling into question the validity of this group. Today’s economy is the result of wastefulness and greed. Let’s hope for our students sake this is not the icing on the cake.

    Rockefeller Call for Comprehensive Education Reform to Provide Students with JobSkills. (2009, May, 13). Press Room: Press Releases. Retrieved November 23, 2009, from http://rockefeller.senate.gov/press/record.cfm?id=312976

  2. KayH says:

    While I can share in your concerns about the need for research and time to have passed to determine and establish the value of the P21 program I cannot agree with the main resaon of opposition to the program outlined by the website Common Core.

    In essence, Common Core’s main point of opposition is that they believe the Partnership for 21st Century Skills is promoting less time being spent on core subjects.

    On the contrary the first point listed as a critical element for 21st century skills is the emphasis on core subjects. “Knowledge and skills for the 21st century must be built on core subject” (Partnership for 21st Century Skills). The organization in their Report and Mile Guide for 21st Century Skills further stresses that the “focus on core subjects must expand beyond basic competency to the understanding of core academic content at much higher levels” (Partnership for 21st Century Skills).

    Although the North American Society is based on capitalism and it is expected that companies get into business to generate profits I believe that the companies that form the Strategic Council Members should be commeded in intiatives in education and the promotion of 21st century skills. After all aren’t these the same companies that many of our students would wish to be employed by?

    Partnership for 21st Century Skills. (n.d.). A report and mile guide for 21st century skills. Washington DC: Author.

  3. wendy says:

    If we as educators continue to do things the way we use to we will become obsolete like the technological devices of today will do eventually. Our society is changing and as you stated so should we. Restraints by budgets seem to be the ongoing topic amongst educators and the advancement of our school systems. With a challenging economical time we are faced with diving back into our, “bag of tricks”.

    These tricks can be seen with what you do in your history class by changing it from year to year and making adjustments on what works. As discussed in the website, there are skills that need to be addressed in school. Mentioned were character education, life skills, and community connections which are important aspects of a society and should be taught. In my school district they are not embraced but instead only a topic that must be touch on in health class.

    I live in New Jersey and we have adopted the program. I was not aware of this until I went to the Partnership’s site. As with many educational aspects, the teachers are the last to know certain state mandated programs and may only obtain a glimpse of them. You stated that you are weary of this program and do not feel like you have all of the information. I feel the same way and I am involved in it every day I teach. Proving that we need to be fully educated on policies in our state and what other states are implementing.


  4. Allison says:


    You made some very interesting points as I read through your blog. I too asked the question about why so few states were involved in this program. My main thought was the lack of funding or resources to support such a framework was involved in the lack of participation.

    I do not think that core curriculum would be lost because of this program however. The framework seemed to incoporate many of the skills into the main subject areas.

    I enjoyed reading your post. It’s always enriching to read different points of view on one topic.

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