Magazine article Multimedia & Internet@Schools

Four Competencies for a 21st-Century Education and How to Implement Them

Magazine article Multimedia & Internet@Schools

Four Competencies for a 21st-Century Education and How to Implement Them

Article excerpt


When President John Kennedy announced the Space Race nearly half a century ago, he was not just calling Americans to compete. The race was a policy direction that engaged stakeholders--from engineers and teachers to test pilots and astronauts--to envision a way to the moon and then make it a reality.

Today, we have a similar opportunity to revitalize and reform our education system by drawing on bold ideas, the wisdom and passion of educators, and the commitment of parents, families, and communities that comprise the heart of the issue.

You often hear talk about globalization in our 21stcentury world economy, yet the connections between most schools and the demands facing students in the global economy are woefully inconsistent. Our state standards with a narrow focus on test scores and adequate yearly progress (AYP) represents the minimum level of achievement in this country. At a time when our students are not globally competitive, current standards are simply not good enough. We must address the larger needs of our public schools.

It starts by measuring our student performance not simply by accountability ratings and other cold performance indicators but by our ability to help every student graduate high school fully equipped to face a world that will demand that highest level of skill and experience as a well-rounded individual. Students must develop an academic competency based on rigorous content that addresses a global perspective; an occupational competency that drives and informs careers aspirations; a civic competency reflected as the capacity to participate in a local and global community and a sense of responsibility to take part; and, above all, a personal competency to include an understanding of one's own capabilities and value as a human being. Students who possess these four competencies will enter the world after graduation with boundless opportunities.

These four competencies have been the foundation of my work as an educational leader, and they served as the cornerstone of the Chancellor's District in New York City and the School Improvement Zone in Miami-Dade. In each case, our school community had to rethink the educational options from preschool through high school and to rethink what it meant to provide support for learning that extends beyond the school walls and the school day. We needed to rethink the expectations we set for our children and examine those expectations through the lens of a global marketplace. We needed to rethink the role of all members of the community and how they can fundamentally shape our students' development of the four core competencies.

Despite the complex challenge of implementing a model such as this, I believe deeply in the importance and the interdependence of each of these competencies. Below are some reflections on how I have approached the implementation of these concepts.


While this is by no means the easiest of the challenges educators face, it may perhaps be the one that is discussed most often. Still, the dialogue remains fairly unchanged. We need to provide students with rigor and high expectations. In my experience, this has to begin with offering honors classes and advanced placement courses and dual enrollment in college courses for high school students.

However, along with rigor and academic challenge, we need to set higher expectations and stop chasing AYP. Criterion-based tests should be treated just as a milestone--a marker on a greater journey. Getting students ready for college and their careers must be our goal. With a desire for a globally competitive career--which is driven by occupational competency--students can and will attain academic competency on a global level.


Through internships and a robust technology platform, we can create opportunities that enable students to apply their learning in real-world settings and connect them globally. …

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