Essay On 21st Century Education Grant

July 20, 2015, Volume 2, Issue 8, Number 10


Driving Question: What if we made a new approach to school reform?


Almost all educational reforms from the past half-century eventually have flowed through the classroom. This pattern isn't likely to be altered dramatically in the foreseeable future. In essence, we really can't have any legitimate reform for excellence in our schools without carefully considering what happens in the classroom. In practical terms, this means that both effective teachers (i.e., those who do the good teaching) and effective curricular and learning standards (i.e., what they teach) must be thoughtfully considered.

In terms of effective teachers, Thomas Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum summarized well the core perspective.

"... of all the variables under a school's control, the single most decisive factor in student achievement is excellent teaching. It's astonishing what great teachers can do for their students. Unfortunately, compared to the countries that outperform us in education, we do very little to measure, develop, and reward excellent teaching. We need to build exceptional teacher personnel systems that identify great teaching, reward it, and help every teacher get better." (2011, p. 109)


The Concern Continues
In terms of excellent curricular and learning standards, No Child Left Behind (NCLB) set the expectation for states in the U.S. to develop rigorous standards. Subsequently, these standards have been developed, reviewed, and critiqued. Following NCLB, the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) were promulgated with the intent of standardizing curriculum across the United States and preparing students to be "college and career ready." Critics, however, continue to be concerned about whether both what and how we are teaching our students are preparing them for the world of today and for what may be tomorrow.

Tony Wagner (2008, 2014) sounded an alarm when he stated that there is a global achievement gap - a gap between students in the United States and students in many other nations. In exploring this gap, he interviewed employers around the country. From his study, Wagner concluded, "I have come to understand that there is a core set of survival skills for today's workplace, as well as for lifelong learning active citizenship – skills that are neither taught nor tested even in our best school systems" (2008, p.14). Consequently, Wagner has challenged the efficacy of the curricular standards (what we teach our students) that are being implemented on a wide-scale basis throughout the United States. Are they, he asked, preparing students with the necessary knowledge and skills for life in the 21st century and beyond?

As we consider both what to teach and how to teach for the future, what is the starting point? Or, better still, what will get our students to where we want them to be? Obviously there is no single answer to these practical, yet somewhat rhetorical, questions. Nonetheless, the place where we have chosen to enter the discussion is the connectivity between high quality teachers and high quality curricular standards.

Making the Connection: New Standards and New Skills for the 21st Century
As early as the 1970's, voices anticipating the approaching end of the twentieth century, called for 21st century standards and skills across the globe. A strong focus on the development of new standards for high quality school results began in earnest after the turn of the century. In 2002, a coalition was developed to begin both U.S. and international conversations about skills students need for the 21st century and beyond. This initiative, the Partnership for 21st Century Learning (P21), formerly known as the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, was a group composed of business leaders, education leaders, and the federal government. Out of this coalition emerged a framework for the development of standards to include a focus on adaptability, collaboration, innovation, initiative, creativity, problem-solving, communication, information gathering, working effectively with others, leadership, interdisciplinary connections, and the like (Partnership for 21st Century Skills, 2009). Almost simultaneously, the Organization for Economic and Co-operative Development (OECD) described the needed change in curriculum:

"The dilemma for educators is that routine cognitive skills, the skills that are easiest to teach and easiest to test, are also the skills that are easiest to digitize, automate or outsource. There is no question that state-of-the-art skills in particular disciplines will always remain important. However, educational success is no longer about reproducing content knowledge, but about extrapolating from what we know and applying that knowledge to novel situations." (Schleicher, 2010)


The Standards Connection
Standards built on these premises paint a very different picture for the qualities (i.e. knowledge, skills, and dispositions) needed by educators to teach and guide learning successfully today and tomorrow. Education in prior decades separated curriculum and instruction into isolated disciplines. Learning for today and tomorrow focuses on a dynamic integration of the cognitive and the affective in a way that integrates rather than separates these domains of learning. We can no longer afford to teach content areas as if they are divided into their own silos; rather, we must think, teach, and learn in a manner that is far more akin to real world applications and work – i.e., integrated in interdisciplinary learning.

Who Is The 21st Century Teacher?
When we think of the typical roles and responsibilities of the classroom teacher, most likely planning instruction, delivering instruction, assessing student learning, and managing the classroom environment come to mind (Stronge, 2007). These are typical ways we know how to "think" about what a teacher does in and outside of the classroom. Teachers have been prepared in very traditional ways to address these specific domains (Darling-Hammond, 2006). In contrast, this century's new perspectives on teaching and learning make it now necessary to call for a window into thinking about how 21st century skills and standards impact these traditional roles of teaching and help make them relevant for students' evolving learning needs. We visualize the aim for 21st century teaching as developing knowledge, higher-order skills (such as the 4Cs of Creativity, Critical thinking, Communication, Collaboration), character, as well as establishing lifelong learning habits and an ability to learn how to learn.

(To be continued).


This post excerpted from the authors' essay in the forthcoming (October, 2015) Solution Tree Press Publication Connecting the Dots: 21st Century Teacher Effectiveness and Professional Development. Used with Permission)

Leslie W. Grant, PhD. is Assistant Professor of Educational Leadership at The College of William and Mary. Her research interests focus on classroom-based assessments and teacher quality. She is involved in several research projects, including international comparative case studies of award-winning teachers in the United States and China and the efficacy of developing assessment literacy in pre-service teachers, in-service teachers, and educational leaders.


James H. Stronge is President of Stronge and Associates Educational Consulting, LLC, an educational consulting company that focuses on teacher and leader effectiveness with projects internationally and in many U.S. states and Heritage Professor of Education, Educational Policy, Planning, and Leadership Area at the College of William and Mary.. He has authored, coauthored, or edited 23 books and more than 150 articles, chapters, and technical reports, most recently, West Meets East: Best Practices from Expert Teachers in the U.S. and China (2014).


XianXuan Xu is a Senior Research Associate at the Stronge and Associates Educational Consulting, LLC. She received her doctorate from the College of William and Mary's Educational Policy, Planning, and Leadership Program. Her research interests are teacher effectiveness, teacher and principal evaluation, and cross-cultural comparative analyses of teacher qualities and evaluation.Monday's

Post: Part II- The Research on Teacher Effectiveness


The 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) initiative is the only federal funding source dedicated exclusively to supporting local  afterschool, before-school and summer learning programs. The program was reauthorized in 2015 as part of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Each state receives funds based on its share of Title I funding for low-income students. Grants support local schools and community based organizations that provide afterschool and summer learning programs to students attending high-poverty, low-performing schools. Programs support:

  • Academic enrichment activities that can help students meet state and local achievement standards.
  • A broad array of additional enrichment services designed to reinforce and complement the regular academic program, such as: drug and violence prevention programs, career and technical programs, counseling programs, art, music programs, STEM programs, and physical activity and nutrition education programs.
  • Literacy and related educational development services to the families of children who are served in the program.

Funding and Advocacy. Conversations about appropriations to 21st CCLC for fiscal year 2018 and 2019 are currently underway. As of March 1, 2018, 21st CCLC is funded at $1.192 billion and serves almost 2 million children and families. This table shows how much funding each state receives, how many students are served, and the impact of elminiating the program. Proposals to eliminate or cut support for 21st CCLC and local afterschool programs will have a devastating effect on more than 11,000 rural, urban and suburban communities nationwide.  Learn more about how you can reach out to Congress in support of 21st CCLC. See the Policy Blog for updates.

21st CCLC 101 - Facts and Figures and Who is Served. For about 20 years 21st Century Community Learning Centers have been providing high quality programming to a wide range of children grades pre-K to 12th grade in communities nationwide. This downloadable fact sheet is a great primer on who is served and key outcomes of local programs.

Data and Evaluation. Are 21st CCLC programs effective in helping students improve academic outcomes, increasing school day attendance, and moving the needle on a range of other important indicators? The answer is yes. This page links to a variety of state and national evaluations and reports that demonstrate conclusively the effectiveness of 21st CCLC and afterschool programs.

ESSA Background and Toolkit. The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) includes 21st CCLC as well as a host of other important funding streams and policies that support quality afterschool programs. An ESSA Toolkit helps advocates understand the law and the opportunities within to support afterschool. View 21st CCLC legislative language here. (see pages 233 through 244 of the legislation)



Funding History, 21st CCLC

Fiscal Year

Amount Appropriated

Amount Authorized in ESEA


$40 million



$200 million



$453 million



$846 million

$1 billion


$1 billion

$1.25 billion


$993.5 million

$1.5 billion


$991 million

$1.75 billion


$991 million

$2 billion


$981 million

$2.25 billion


$981 million

$2.5 billion


$1.08 billion



$1.13 billion



$1.16 billion



$1.154 billion



$1.152 billion



$1.092 billion



$1.149 billion



$1.152 billionn/a


$1.167 billionn/a
2017$1.192 billion$1 billion
2018TBD ($1.192 billion in CR)$1.1 billion
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