The National Journal asked whether after a decade and lots of supporters the Partnership for 21st Century Skills had succeeded.

As a number of C21 critics have pointed out, good schools have long taught critical thinking and enough content to think about.  What’s missing from this thread is the importance of performance assessments.  We’ve bent public education to bubble sheet assessment and squeezed out nearly everything authentic about learning.  Good schools like High Tech High demand frequent presentations of learning where students show what they know.  The focus is on great work product not great test scores (which, of course, take care of themselves).

The Partnership has a lot of supporters but hasn’t done much to change schooling in America.  I’m hoping we’ll see some advances in assessment as part of RttT and i3 that pilot combinations of adaptive assessment and performance assessment.  However, there’s substantial risk that we’ll lock in on a Common Core and a common set of old-fashioned assessments–an unintentional Partnership for 20th Century Skills.

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Tom Vander Ark is author of Difference Making at the Heart of Learning, The Power of Place, Better Together, Smart Parents, Smart Cities and Getting Smart. He is co-founder of Getting Smart and serves on the boards of Education Board Partners, 4.0 Schools, Digital Learning Institute, Latinx Education Collaborative, Mastery Transcript Consortium and eduInnovation. Follow Tom on Twitter, @tvanderark.


  1. Given the current common core state standard subjects, it doesn’t surprise me that we don’t see a lot of C21 skills in the standards and therefore might expect a C20 assessment. I think the more interesting question is, what is the intersection between the future of common core state standards, C21, and the new NAEP technology project that seems full of skills and engineering topics. Does anyone have a roadmap?


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