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It seems that every week or so, there is an article in the media about student achievement. The institution of state tests and the expectation that all students reach academic proficiency has focused a great deal of attention and effort to improve students’ academic performance. Mastery of English, reading, math and other academic skills are essential for success. I would contend, however, that there are other skills that are also essential for students to be successful in college and employment.
A frequent comment from colleges and employers is that their new students/employees need to be able to discipline themselves to come to work or class on time each day. They need to know how to organize themselves so that deadlines are met. Students who graduate from high school who have good attendance records and are able to break down an assignment into more manageable parts are more likely to succeed in college or employment. These skills are referred to as self direction by the Partnership for 21st Century Skills. The Partnership is a group of business leaders, education leaders, and policy makers that have identified a vision for what all students need to succeed in the 21st century.
Regardless of their post high school plans, students who have learned how to take the time to understand an assignment or task, identify what is expected, and identify ways that the task can be accomplished will be successful. This process is commonly referred to as the ability to problem solve. People with this skill can learn to change and adapt to meet new challenges. Yes students need English, reading, and math skills but they also need to be able to adapt and solve new problems. Flexibility and adaptability are two other 21st Century Skills.
Another important set of skills that is frequently overlooked is the ability to work together and communicate with others. Many employers, even in manufacturing, structure their work places to encourage teams of their employees to discuss their jobs and provide suggestions on how to improve efficiency. Students need to be able to work with others and communicate their ideas in a clear and concise manner. Communication and collaboration have also been identified as 21st Century Skills.
In this time of instant communication, students must also be able to differentiate information coming from a trusted source compared with information coming from ‘social media’. Unfortunately, too many people believe everything they see on the Internet. These skills are called information and media literacy by the Partnership for 21st Century Skills.
Our country faces many challenges. Schools need to teach students the importance of being involved in their community, voicing their opinion, and participating in the election of our representatives to local, state, and federal governments. The importance of community service and citizenship to our democracy cannot be overstated. In fact, public schools were established to educate the citizenry so that they can participate in our democracy. Civic literacy is another 21st Century Skill.
The economic recession also serves to remind us of the importance of teaching financial literacy. Students need to be able to develop and live within a budget, and understand the types and conditions of long term loans such as home mortgages.
As schools increase their efforts to ensure that all students are proficient in English, reading, and math, we cannot ignore many other skills which have been identified as necessary for success for all adults in our democracy. Here in the Fleetwood Area School District in conjunction with families and the community, we strive to provide students with both the academic and the “other” skills needed for success after high school in the 21st Century.
Upcoming Events in the Fleetwood Area School District
Feb. 18 – Schools closed, Presidents’ Day Holiday Feb. 21 – MS Basketball Grudge Match, 7 p.m. The Board of School Directors will meet on Feb. 12 and 19, both at 7 p.m.