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21st Century Group Offers Ideas to Improve NCLB

Urges Changes to Better Prepare Students for Global Economy

With its focus on standardized tests to measure student achievement in a few core areas, the federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) may be promoting instruction that doesn't reflect the realities or challenges of life in today's world, according to the Partnership for 21st Century Skills.

The Partnership, which includes leading corporations, NEA and other education organizations, has issued a set of principles that it believes are essential underpinnings for the upcoming congressional reauthorization of NCLB, which is the current version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).

In its Statement of Principles, the group contends, "Today every student, whether he/she plans to go directly into the workforce or on to a 4-year college or trade school, requires 21st skills to succeed."

Noting that the Partnership considers mastery of core subject areas as defined by NCLB necessary for students to succeed in work, school, and life, it also believes, "Students must be able to use technology to help them learn content and skills -- so that they know how to learn, think critically, solve problems, use information, communicate, innovate, and collaborate."

According to the Partnership, 21st century skills include:

  • Core subjects (as defined by NCLB)
  • 21st century content: global awareness; financial, economic, business and entrepreneurial literacy; civic literacy; and health and wellness awareness
  • Learning and thinking skills: critical thinking and problem solving skills, communications skills, creativity and innovation skills, collaboration skills, contextual learning skills and information and media literacy skills
  • Information and communications technology (ICT) literacy
  • Life skills: leadership, ethics, accountability, adaptability, personal productivity, personal responsibility, people skills, self-direction, and social responsibility

The Partnership for 21st Century Skills works to ensure all of America's students leave schools with the critical skills necessary for success in today's world. NEA is a founding member of the Partnership, and NEA Executive Director John Wilson is the immediate past chair.

Partnership members are: Adobe Systems, Agilent Technologies Foundation, American Association of School Librarians, American Federation of Teachers, Apple, Bell South Foundation, Cable in the Classroom, Cisco Systems, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Dell, Educational Testing Service, Ford Motor Company Fund, Intel Foundation, Junior Achievement, LeapFrog School House, McGraw Hill Education, Microsoft, National Education Association, Oracle Education Foundation, Pearson Education, SAP, SAS, Texas Instruments, Thomson Gale, Time Warner, and Verizon.


  • anc_dyn_linksAmericans Say Students Need More than 'Basics' for 21st Century Success
  • anc_dyn_linksStatement of Principles: 21st Century Skills and the Reauthorization of NCLB/ESEA
  • Partnership for 21st Century Skills