New 21st-century skills guide available

“No skills implementation can be successful without developing core academic subject knowledge and understanding among all students,” said Ken Kay, P21 president.

Core subjects include English, reading or language arts, world languages, arts, math, economics, science, geography, history, government, and civics. However, the guide says schools also must integrate 21st-century interdisciplinary themes into these subject areas. These themes include global awareness; financial, economic, business, and entrepreneurial literacy; civic literacy; health literacy; and environmental literacy.

Information, media, and technology skills also must be incorporated, as well as life and career skills.

“Everyone should review the ‘Student Knowledge and Skills’ area,” advised Greenhill. “No matter what role you play in a school system, the vision for student outcomes as described here is central to any knowledge and skills initiative for today’s world. After that, the priorities depend on what role the user is playing in a school or district.”

Greenhill said school and district leaders also will benefit from the Education and Leadership, Partnering, and Continuous Improvement areas of the tool.

In addition to the Self-Assessment Tool, the guide includes a set of recommendations organized around five support system areas: assessment, professional development, curriculum and instruction, learning environments, and standards.

After completing the self-assessment, schools and districts are encouraged to consider these recommendations, which were adapted from P21’s State Implementation Guides. There are recommendations for each support system area, accompanied by specific examples from districts around the country. According to the guide, these recommendations can help local districts move from self-assessment to concrete action–and district leaders will see how other similar districts have approached their action plans.

For example, the guide recommends that districts develop intensive teacher professional development programs that focus on enhancing skills and knowledge acquisition in the teaching of core subjects. Two examples include Iowa’s Authentic Intellectual Work initiative and the New Literacies Collaborative at the Friday Institute in Raleigh, N.C.

Another recommendation is for schools and districts to build capacity by working with educators to create an environment of differentiated professional learning, risk taking, and collaborative relationships, as demonstrated by the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development’s Teacher Leader Capacity-Building Model.

“The 21st Century MILE Guide specifically outlines goals that will assist educators and stakeholders at every level in constructing a common vision of how to move forward with this critical initiative,” said Alexa Posny, director of the Office of Special Education for the U.S. Department of Education and former education commissioner of Kansas. “Accelerating technological advances, a rapidly changing knowledge base, an interconnected workforce, and an increasingly global society have all combined to make the integration of 21st-century skills into rigorous courses essential for every student’s success. We believe that [P21] and its member states will assist in guiding us in our systemic and forward-thinking educational improvement efforts.”

Kansas, one of P21’s 14 state members, believes the MILE Guide will act as benchmark for success.

“Kansas educators are anxious to put the revised MILE Guide to work,” said Blake West, president of the Kansas Education Association. “As we create professional development for our staff, and as we share exemplary practices among colleagues, the MILE Guide will be exactly that–a guide to plan our work and a benchmark to better assess how we are doing. Quite simply, the MILE Guide provides teachers and education leaders with meaningful, practical guidance as we plan the kind of learning experiences that will help our students apply 21st-century skills to solving real-world problems.”

For now, educators can download the complete MILE Guide or the Self-Assessment Tool by itself in PDF format. Paper versions also can be ordered through P21’s web site. According to Greenhill, an interactive online version of the Self-Assessment Tool will be available in January.


2009 MILE Guide