New 21st-century skills guide available

successresizedIn yet another step toward helping schools and their students achieve 21st-century success, the Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21) has released a new guide intended to help schools and districts evaluate the integration of 21st-century skills into their policies and practices.

The collection of tools, called the Milestones for Improving Learning and Education (MILE) Guide, initially was released six years ago. Owing to changes in some of the skills that students will need to learn to succeed in the global economy, the guide has been revised and updated.

The new version, released Nov. 6 at the American Association of School Librarians’ National Conference, will help schools and districts determine where they are on the “spectrum of ensuring students have the knowledge and skills required for success in today’s world,” says P21.

“The P21 Framework for 21st Century Learning has been updated to better reflect the importance of core academic subject-matter mastery, along with important themes like health and environmental literacy,” said Valerie Greenhill, director of strategic initiatives for P21, in an interview with eSchool News. “There is also a much clearer depiction of the support systems–standards, assessments, curriculum and instruction, professional development, and learning environments–needed to produce [the desired] knowledge and skill outcomes in students. The MILE Guide needed to be updated to reflect these changes to the framework. In addition, curricula and assessment systems and professional development are given more prominence and are more clearly described in this newly released MILE Guide.”

Greenhill also acknowledged that educators (and the organization itself) have had more experience with implementing 21st-century skills than when the first MILE Guide was published, and this has allowed P21 to put together the implementation guidelines, which were not issued with the first release.

One of the most helpful features of the new guide is the updated Self-Assessment Tool, which is a visual mapping and self-assessment instrument that allows districts to plot where they are today and set a course for future integration of 21st-century skills into their curricula. The tool has three benchmarks (early stage, transitional stage, and 21st century) and takes into account students’ knowledge and skills, education support systems, policy making, leading and teaching, district partnerships, strategic planning, and continuous improvement.

For example, the guide says that “when looking at student knowledge and skills, an early stage indicator is that student work primarily demonstrates rote factual knowledge in core academic subjects, while a transitional stage indicator is that student work demonstrates mastery of core academic subject knowledge.”

At the 21st-century stage, the guide says, two indicators are that all student work demonstrates mastery and understanding of core academic disciplinary knowledge and that more than 75 percent of student work demonstrates “the ability to think critically, problem solve, create, innovate, communicate, and collaborate.”