The Partnership for 21st Century Skills, formed in 2002, combined earlier initiatives and created a model to help define the skills students will need to gain from their education to make them successful in this century.

As the name suggests, P21 consists of a number of partners with major stakes in education. These include businesses with ties to education, educational leaders and policymakers. The goal of P21 is to advocate for policies and practices that put 21st century readiness at the core of K-12 education.

To define 21st century readiness, the group developed a model that has become known as the P21 Rainbow. The first arc of this rainbow is the traditional educational basic skills – reading, writing and math (3R’s). A second arc over that, divided into three parts, consists of newer basics: Life and Career Skills; Learning and Innovational Skills (the 4 C’s – Critical Thinking, Collaboration, Creativity and Communication); and the last piece, Information, Media and Technology Skills. These rainbow arcs are so named because of the color-coding of each of these strands. The rainbow essentially defines the content of education needed by the 21st century learner.

Good journalism education fits well with the P21 model, but the strongest connection lies in the learning and innovation skills – the 4Cs (Critical Thinking, Collaboration, Creativity, and Communication) – plus another P21 piece: Information, Media and Technology Skills. Collaboration is one of the most important elements of a journalism production class, with teams of students working together to think critically about what their audience needs to know, to examine and judge the reliability of multiple sources, and to find creative ways to communicate all of this to their audience. These are real-life challenges and produce genuine products, also part of the P21 model.

P21 is generally compatible with the Common Core movement, which is present in both the arc of skills and the implementation standards and assessment. Where it may differ is P21’s emphasis on the Learning and Innovation Skills.

P21 has worked to expand its influence by aligning with state organizations, advocating at educational conferences, sending out speakers to educational conferences, and offering training at P21 seminars. P21 has state components in 18 states.

Information contributed by Gary Lindsay
Journalism Education Association P-21 Subcommittee Chair