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About the 21st Century Learning Exemplar Program

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The 21st Century Learning Exemplar Program is designed to be a cornerstone for the next stage of the 21st century skills movement. For the past 10 years the Partnership for 21st Century Skills has advocated for 21st century readiness for every student. Thousands of schools, communities and thought leaders across the country have helped to define 21st century skills and promote their adoption. Now, we are ready to lead a coalition of educators and partners in identifying what 21st century educational practices look like and where they are being implemented successfully.

Through the Exemplar Program, P21 seeks to identify, document, promote and celebrate examples of successful 21st century learning. This program will provide educators and communities with a variety of examples to draw from, and offer policymakers and P21 State Partners local examples to help encourage their support. See our newly-released Patterns of Innovation report to learn more. 

P21 is calling all great schools to apply to be considered for the Exemplar Program! 
Applications accepted until January 31. See our application page for more details.

Evaluation Process

Our evaluation process is thorough and designed to lift up examples of successful 21st century instructional practices and structures nationwide.  We use the following process to identify these schools: 

  • Schools may be nominated for a visit by our partner states, strategic council members, or other critical friends. Nomination site will be launched soon. 
  • Schools that appear to have exemplary 21st century learning practices that are improving student learning in classrooms and communities are selected for evaluation visits by the P21 team.
  • Team Visit: Two to four members of the exemplar program evaluation team visit the schools. The team meets with the superintendent, principal, teachers and students, if available, and tours classrooms. Photo or video are captured from the visit, as appropriate.
  • Site evaluation: The Team evaluates the school using the P21 Exemplar Evaluation Tool, based on the criteria below:
1. Evidence of commitment to college, career, and life readiness 
2. Educational support systems and sustainable design 
3. Engaged learning approaches 
4. Equitable student access to 21st century learning
5. Evidence of student acquisition of 21st century knowledge and skills
6. Partnerships for sustainable success 


Results of the evaluation will be shared with the school leadership.

Exemplar Evaluation Tool

P21 and its partners use this rubric to guide the evaluation of schools for exemplar status during onsite visits. The rubric, which was developed in consultation with external advisers and evaluation design experts, provides a framework for considering the extent to which schools demonstrate successful implementation of key areas of the P21 Framework and the factors that may support that success.  However, in reflection of the goals of the Patterns of Innovation: 21st Century Exemplar Learning Program, school visits and evaluations and follow up interviews may touch on areas beyond the topics addressed in this rubric in an effort to better understand what helps schools best prepare students for 21st century success. Download a copy of the Exemplar Evaluation Tool.

High Visibility

Exemplar Schools receive the following benefits:

  • Special P21 Exemplar School designation 
  • Showcase on the P21 website
  • Local, state and national media exposure 
  • Opportunities to present at conferences with P21 as exemplars 
  • Opportunities to participate in special P21 events 
  • Exemplar schools may be featured in the Patterns of Innovation guide that P21 is developing to highlight commonalities among exemplar schools.

Funding and Rollout

Generous funding from the Pearson Foundation is helping fund the 25 pilot case studies of the Exemplar Program that will be completed in 2013. All schools are celebrated at the P21 Summit on 21st Century Learning in Washington DC on November 18 & 19, 2013. There is no cost to the school for participation in the program.