Measuring 21st Century Competencies

Guidance for Educators

Published in: Global Cities Education Network Report, Nov. 2013, 68 p

Posted on RAND.org on November 01, 2013

by Jim Soland, Laura S. Hamilton, Brian M. Stecher

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Public school systems are expected to promote a wide variety of skills and accomplishments in their students, including both academic achievement and the development of broader competencies, such as creativity, adaptability, and global awareness. The latter outcomes, which are often referred to as "21st century skills" or "21st century competencies," have recently taken a more central role in policy discussions, because they are seen as critical components of college and career readiness. For example, in the United States, more than forty states have adopted the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), which are designed to embody a broader view of the knowledge and skills needed for success in college and careers. This growing emphasis on outcomes beyond simple academic content knowledge is the result of a confluence of factors, including perceptions among some business and government leaders that globalization, technology, migration, international competition, and changing markets require a greater emphasis on these outcomes than was required in the past. As a result, school systems are facing increasing pressure to produce graduates with this range of competencies (i.e., knowledge, skills, attitudes, and dispositions), a demand that generates challenges in terms of pedagogy and assessment. In a previous Asia Society report, Saavedra and Opfer (2012) summarized lessons from research on learning to identify promising strategies for teaching 21st century competencies. For example, they stressed the importance of making curriculum relevant, helping students learn how to teach themselves, and fostering creativity. This report builds on that foundation by examining how to assess 21st century competencies. Fortunately, data systems and measurement techniques that provide opportunities to assess students' attainment of these outcomes are increasingly available. This report is intended to acquaint teachers, school leaders, and district administrators with the current state of 21st century competencies assessment, provide examples of relevant measures that educators in the field may wish to consider using, and offer some guidance to help educators compare measures and implement an assessment system.

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