P-21 National Summit Report


Illinois NEA Directors Jim Grimes and Gary Miller attended this meeting along with about 30 other NEA representatives, including NEA Exec. Dir. John Wilson.

The P21 National Summit on 21st Century Readiness invited America’s policymakers, teachers, and school leaders to:

  • Critically think about the future of US education
  • Communicate with policymakers about the importance of 21st century readiness
  • Collaborate with colleagues to find answers and develop solutions
  • Create and innovate to ensure that our schools prepare today’s students for the challenges of the 21st century.


The Partnership for 21st Century Skills is a national organization that advocates for 21st century readiness for every student.  As the United States continues to compete in a global economy that demands innovation, P21 and its members provide tools and resources to help the U.S. education system keep up by fusing the three Rs and four Cs (critical thinking and problem solving, communication, collaboration, and creativity and innovation).  While leading districts and schools are already doing this, P21 advocates for local, state and federal policies that support this approach for every school.

Panel Plenary: College and Career Readiness and the 4Cs

Critical thinking and problem solving, Communication, Collaboration, Creativity and innovation

  • Significant disconnect between 4C values and preparation in schools for those 4Cs.
  • Traditional focus on 3Rs is not enough; necessary but not sufficient.
  • Ed Reilly, American Management Association: critical thinking is the most important; add curiosity!
  • Too many remedial courses required at the college level (10-15%); 325/500 universities have volunteered to test critical thinking beginning in 2012; universities have a responsibility to feed back to high school systems (Peter McPherson, Association of Public Land-Grant Universities).
  • Test: can I use it (4Cs) when I need it? (Karen Pittman, Forum for Youth Investment); get away from mode of teaching these skills in specific sequence; they are interrelated.
  • Connie Yowell, MacArthur Foundation: enormous gap between how kids learn inside school and how they learn outside of school; learning occurs everywhere and all the time; they’re working on the 4Cs outside of school; we need to honor out-of-school learning and acknowledge it, not regard it as supplementary; 4Cs represent sets of skills and dispositions; “Scratch” is a software program by Mitch Resnick (MIT) where kids design games; with low-income kids, question is not access but participation.
  • Free download: http://scratch.mit.edu.
  • Redirect resources to where learning is really taking place.
  • Creativity and risk taking; fail often and fail fast!  fail, learn from it, and move on….
  • Gallup school survey of hope, engagement; only 50% are hopeful; engagement declines with each succeeding grade level; find out where they are engaged.
  • Games: social practice, strategy, collaboration; time on task is phenomenal.
  • Content becomes context for participation and production; skills and process and content are not mutually exclusive – they’re integrated.
  • Technology moved from broadcast mode (one) to “many to many”; interest-driven communities, not necessarily expert peers of their own ages.
  • Reed Larson: UI education initiative research:  The Youth Development Research Project  www.youthdev.illinois.edu/tydepubs.htm.
  • 3Rs necessary but not sufficient.
  • Current assessments and accountability systems do not integrate 4Cs and 3Rs.

Breakout Session: Core Academic Subjects and 21st Century Skills

  • 21st century skills maps.
  • 4Cs look different in each content area.
  • Peter Senge: systems approach: non-obvious points of leverage are often the most powerful; skills maps, e.g.
  • Content areas cannot be separated/disarticulated from the process skills.
  • Points along a cognitive continuum: 4Cs; all knowledge is socially constructed.
  • Understanding of 21st century world; the changing nature of the content itself.
  • Changing understanding of how people learn different kinds of content.
  • NCTE: Kent Williamson – common platform of content and 21st century skills and partnerships; learning is recursive; grades 4, 8, and 12 were representative, but teachers from all levels collaborated; ongoing cascade of activities; constantly evolving; overarching principles; parents are critical; making student experience outside of school impact inside school experience and impact pedagogy.
  • Authentic performance-based assessment.

21st Century Skills Maps illustrate through concrete examples the intersection between 21st century skills and content.  Below is an example from the 21st Century Skills Map for English, available at www.21stcenturyskills.org

21st Century Skill: Critical Thinking and Problem Solving

Skill Definition:

  • Exercising sound reasoning in understanding
  • Making complex choices and decisions
  • Understanding the interconnections among systems
  • Identifying and asking significant questions that clarify various points of view and lead to    better solutions
  • Framing, analyzing and synthesizing information in order to solve problems and answer questions
  • Interdisciplinary Theme: Frame, analyze and synthesize information in order to solve problems and answer questions.
  • Example: Students choose an article from the satiric website http://www.theonion.com to analyze. In addition to identifying the elements of satire (exaggeration, incongruity, reversal, and parody) used in the article, students write a critique evaluating the effectiveness of the piece as commentary on current events.

Luncheon: Fable Vision (Boston)

Keynote Plenary Moderator: Gene Wilhoit, Executive Director, CCSSO

  • Every student should have a plan for college or career education.
  • Beyond knowledge acquisition to knowing what to do with that knowledge; application of knowledge.
  • Research- and evidence-based.
  • Parents want and need to be involved; globalization precludes ethnocentricity.
  • Adults must believe in equality in expectations of students.
  • Many decisions should be made by teachers and administration at a site level yet in response to overarching principles.
  • Learning progressions; national standards should not preclude creativity, innovation, and flexibility.
  • We need standards-driven education with redesigned curriculum, strong professional education programs, strong induction programs, and a systemic assessment and accountability system.

EdSteps, currently under development by the CCSSO, will give teachers, parents, and students a Web-based resource for comparing their student work to that of other students.

Panel: ESEA Reauthorization and the 4Cs

Dr. Steve Paine, WV Supt of Schools

Matthew Hussey, Office of Senator Olympia Snowe

Steve Robinson, Special Assistant in the WH Domestic Policy Council

  • Obama-Duncan Blueprint for Success: better info and data, teachers as leaders, assessments and accountability, turning around struggling schools.
  • Advanced technology deficit in R&D since 2002, particularly ICT (Internet and communications technology).
  • ESEA Reauthorization: similar agenda to NEA’s.
  • Hussey: greater flexibility with assessment; greater emphasis on 21st century skills.
  • Robinson: restore flexibility; closing achievement gap; raising the bar; revise accountability system; change DOE from agent of compliance to agency of innovation.
  • Paine: what is the content and what are the skills for students to be prepared for the 21st century; psychometrics way behind educational policy; need more investment in research base/practitioners; linked to student outcomes.
  • We can’t continue down path of NCLB (one size fit all with huge disconnect with 21st century skills).
  • Move away from static measure of growth.
  • All panelists support the NEA agenda for ESEA reauthorization.

Preparing Students for 21st Century Success

Barry O’Callaghan, Chairman and CEO of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

  • US has lost its global competitive edge.
  • Great teachers lead to great education.
  • Parents want the best for their children.
  • Globalize education system (examine content, resources, methodology of other countries who have surpassed us; develop sense of global awareness and citizenship; media literacy); digitize education system (improves critical thinking; diagnose and prescribe; today’s students are digital natives; real world environment is digital; multidimensional learning experience; pervasion of technology and social networking; increases participation and networking for all involved in education; ubiquity of data);  individualize education system (individualized learning, instruction, and outcomes; identify individual needs and support teachers in addressing those individual needs.
  • How do we measure the education turnaround?  transforms a low-performing school in two years; every stakeholder must be engaged and transparently be allowed to share data with each other.
  • FSG (originally Foundation Strategy Group):  Turnaround Guide aims to increase education reformers’ awareness of turnaround issues, to prompt those in the field to think about how to most effectively do turnaround work, and to encourage members of the field to work in concert with each other.  If the U.S. is to transform thousands of its chronically underperforming schools, multiple actors must work together to identify and spread effective practices, create the policies and conditions for success, build capacity, and ensure the sustainability of turnaround work at scale.
  • Creativity (measurement = US economy…can we compete globally); communication; collaboration.
  • Time of great challenge yet enormous opportunity.

Worthy Learning: Students Are Worth the Learning That Is Worth Doing

Sarah Brown Wessling, 2010 National Teacher of the Year

  • Our students are worth being listened to; we must meet students where they are.
  • Find that place between our experience and their place; we’re all struggling learners at some time.       Transcend content and skills.
  • Critical and creative thinking involve intellectual risk taking.
  • Create the kind of learning environment where teachers and learners can take risks.
  • Creativity is a product of creating mistakes.
  • Regard each student as an individual, not third hour or sophomores.
  • It takes time to grow learners.
  • Are we cultivating consumers of content?
  • Teachers don’t just need technology; we need to be treated like mathematicians, scientists, etc.
  • Move from concrete to abstract to concrete.
  • Quality time and opportunities for true reflection.
  • Must be liberated from clutter: bells, paperwork, rules; what’ real teaching v what’s playing school.
  • This is the wisdom, derived from the wonder that surges because of students maneuvering the technologies, wielded by dispositions that   develop from the passions, ignited by the skills that are shaped from the house that innovation built.
  • Caring for each student is at the heart of what each teacher does.

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