HomeAbout UsFAQ


E-mail Print

What is the Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21)?
Who are your members?
What is the Framework for Learning in the 21st Century?
What is the P21 mission?
Why do students need 21st century skills?
What are 21st century skills?
How does P21 work inform other education efforts?
Is P21’s model making a difference?
What can I do to help?
What tools and resources have you developed to help advance your mission?

What is the Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21)?

P21 is a national organization that advocates for 21st century readiness for every student. P21 is a broad coalition made up of education nonprofits, foundations, and businesses working together to make 21st century education a reality for all students. As the United States continues to compete in a global economy that demands innovation, P21 and its members provide tools and resources to help the U.S. education system keep up by fusing content and the 4Cs (critical thinking and problem solving, communication, collaboration, and creativity and innovation). While leading districts and schools are already doing this, P21 advocates for local, state and federal policies that support this approach for every school.  


back to top 

Who are your members?

We succeed when we work together to transform education. P21 urges business, education and government leaders to join this effort, think strategically about fusing the 3Rs and 4Cs, and work long-term to create an education system that best prepares today’s students for tomorrow’s workplace. Meet our Strategic Council, as well as  the list of organizations comprising our membership

back to top


What is the Framework for Learning in the 21st Century?

P21’s framework for learning in the 21st century is based on the essential skills that our children need to succeed as citizens and workers in the 21st century. We have identified six key elements of a 21st century education, which are described below. An overview of the framework and P21 can be downloaded here.

1. Core Subjects. The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, which reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, identifies the core subjects as English, reading or language arts; mathematics; science; foreign languages; civics; government; economics; arts; history; and geography.

2. 21st Century Content. Several significant, emerging content areas are critical to success in communities and workplaces. These content areas typically are not emphasized in schools today:

  • Global awareness
  • Financial, economic, business and entrepreneurial literacy
  • Civic literacy
  • Health and wellness awareness
  • Environmental literacy

3. Learning and Thinking Skills. As much as students need to learn academic content, they also need to know how to keep learning — and make effective and innovative use of what they know — throughout their lives. Learning and Thinking Skills are comprised of:

  • Critical Thinking and Problem Solving Skills
  • Communication Skills
  • Creativity and Innovation Skills
  • Collaboration Skills
  • Information and Media Literacy Skills
  • Contextual Learning Skills

4. ICT Literacy. Information and communications technology (ICT) literacy is the ability to use technology to develop 21st century content knowledge and skills in support of 21st century teaching and learning.

5. Life Skills. Good teachers have always incorporated life skills into their pedagogy. The challenge today is to incorporate these essential skills into schools deliberately, strategically and broadly. Life skills include:

  • Leadership
  • Ethics
  • Accountability
  • Adaptability
  • Personal Productivity
  • Personal Responsibility
  • People Skills
  • Self Direction
  • Social Responsibility

6. 21st Century Assessments. Authentic 21st century assessments are the essential foundation of a 21st century education. Assessments must measure all five results that matter: core subjects; 21st century content; learning skills; ICT literacy; and life skills. To be effective, sustainable and affordable, assessments must use modern technologies to increase efficiency and timeliness. Standardized tests alone can measure only a few of the important skills and knowledge students should learn. A balance of assessments, including high-quality standardized testing, along with effective classroom assessments, offer students a powerful way to master the content and skills central to success.

back to top


What is the P21 mission?

Our mission is to serve as a catalyst to position 21st century readiness at the center of US K-12 education by building collaborative partnerships among education, business, and community and government leaders. 

back to top


Why do students need 21st century skills?

Every child in America needs to be ready for today’s and tomorrow’s world. A profound gap exists between the knowledge and skills most students learn in school and the knowledge and skills they need for success in their communities and workplaces. To successfully face rigorous higher education coursework, career challenges and a globally competitive workforce, U.S. schools must align classroom environments with real world environments by fusing the 3Rs and 4Cs.

back to top


What are 21st century skills?

Read more about the P21 framework here.

back to top


How does P21 work inform other education efforts?

P21’s work helps inform other major education conversations:

  • NCLB: The 21st century readiness model is consistent with the metrics and accountability emphasized in the No Child Left Behind Act. It can help us develop a broader vision of accountability as we evolve to meet our nation's challenges.
  • High School Reform: 21st century readiness is a vehicle for changing high schools. As America struggles to make high school education rigorous, meaningful and relevant once again, the high school reform movement should fully and strategically fuse the 3Rs and 4Cs.
  • STEM and STEAM Initiatives: STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) and STEAM (adding arts) Initiatives and the P21 framework are mutually supportive. A technically competent scientist in today’s world must have the ability to communicate and collaborate and be effective in all skills in order to be successful. All students, even those pursuing non-technical careers, benefit greatly from math and science. In fact, STEM are a very effective way to acquire the full gamut of knowledge and skills.
back to top


Is P21’s model making a difference?

P21’s model for 21st century learning has gained dramatic support and momentum. As of 2010, some P21 accomplishments include:

  • The U.S. Conference of Mayors passed a policy resolution supporting a framework for 21st century readiness. The resolution supports and encourages the development and implementation of comprehensive standards and skills required for today’s and tomorrow’s jobs through establishing new policies, practices and programs in cities to better prepare students and enhance their opportunities.
  • Since its inception in 2002, P21 has more than quadrupled its membership, growing from eight founding organizations to 39 members representing America’s leading business, technology and education organizations. Our work has been endorsed by the U.S. Department of Education.
  • P21 has catalyzed a national movement to improve education by incorporating 21st century readiness into 19 state educational systems. Learn more about our state outreach model.  
  • In 2009, WV Superintendent of Schools Dr. Steven Paine joined the P21 Strategic Council Advisory Board bringing that state voice to the organization’s leadership. 
  • In assessment:
    • WV changed state assessment to include questions that challenge students to think critically, problem solve and apply knowledge.
    • The largest global private sector consortium on assessment (Cisco, Intel, Microsoft) focuses on building performance assessment of 21st century skills. 
  • In professional development:
    • WV changed professional development to include teaching 21st century skills in the classroom.
    • AACTE created a paper for deans of colleges of education to build 21st century skills into preparation programs. 
  • In standards:
    • CCSSO, Achieve and NGA have included critical thinking and communications skills in their draft common core standards to increase global competitiveness.
    • The largest state consortium is applying for federal funds to develop new performance standards around many 21st century skills. 
  • In curriculum and instruction:
  • Other efforts:
    • Execution of 2009 National Summit and Cyber Summit on 21st Century Skills, attended by 300+ education leaders and policymakers in Washington and 2500 participants online.
    • Creation of P21 Professional Development Affiliates Program.
    • Promotion of National Action Agenda on 21st Century Skills, signed by 230+ organizations (2009).
    • Release of publications that have influenced education policy and practice. The MILE Guide: Milestones in Learning and Education has reached tens of thousands.
back to top


What can I do to help?

If you’re an educator or administrator, take action. P21 encourages educators and administrators to advocate for the fusion of the three Rs and four Cs by:

  • Embracing a vision of education that incorporates 21st century readiness.
  • Gathering the right stakeholders including key individuals from the education, business, and government, afterschool and parent communities.
  • Utilizing the P21 MILE Guide Self-Assessment tool to determine where you are today (available here).
  • Creating a plan of action using P21’s interactive resource library, Route 21.

If you are a policy-maker, work to create visionary education policies. We urge policy-makers to promote and create policies conducive to the fusion of the three Rs and four Cs by:

  • Adopting state standards that incorporate 21st century tools and learning skills, including the eighth-grade technology literacy requirement of No Child Left Behind.
  • Embedding ICT Literacy into current standards, curricula and assessments for core subjects.
  • Creating state and local infrastructure that supports a 21st century education.
  • Providing professional development that is strategically aligned to support the goal of ensuring 21st century readiness for every student.
  • Encouraging the development of new assessment tools and strategies that address 21st century readiness.
  • Engaging educators, employers, community members, parents and policy-makers in an ongoing dialogue that provides recommendations and advice about 21st century education.

If you are a business leader or community leader, help create successful public-private partnerships. We urge business leaders to partner with local school districts to help create an education system that better prepares today’s students for tomorrow’s workplace by:

  • Defining the skills required for young people to be successful in work and life in the 21st century.
  • Providing students with authentic learning opportunities in their local communities.
  • Providing teachers with professional development opportunities.
back to top


What tools and resources has P21 developed to help advance its mission?

We have a number of tools and resources available for viewing and download on our Web site. Please see our Resources page for more detailed information.

back to top