21st Century Skills

Learning and Innovation

Learning and innovation skills increasingly are being recognized as those that separate students who are prepared for a more and more complex life and work environments in the 21st century, and those who are not. A focus on creativity, critical thinking, communication and collaboration is essential to prepare students for the future.

Creativity and Innovation

Think Creatively
1.A.1 Use a wide range of idea creation techniques (such as brainstorming)
1.A.2 Create new and worthwhile ideas (both incremental and radical concepts)
1.A.3 Elaborate, refine, analyze and evaluate their own ideas in order to improve and maximize creative efforts
Work Creatively with Others
1.B.1 Develop, implement and communicate new ideas to others effectively
1.B.2 Be open and responsive to new and diverse perspectives; incorporate group input and feedback into the work
1.B.3 Demonstrate originality and inventiveness in work and understand the real world limits to adopting new ideas
1.B.4 View failure as an opportunity to learn; understand that creativity and innovation is a long-term, cyclical process of small successes and frequent mistakes
Implement Innovations
1.C.1 Act on creative ideas to make a tangible and useful contribution to the field in which the innovation will occur
Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
Reason Effectively
2.A.1 Use various types of reasoning (inductive, deductive, etc.) as appropriate to the situation
Use Systems Thinking
2.B.1 Analyze how parts of a whole interact with each other to produce overall outcomes in complex systems
Make Judgments and Decisions
2.C.1 Effectively analyze and evaluate evidence, arguments, claims and beliefs
2.C.2 Analyze and evaluate major alternative points of view
2.C.3 Synthesize and make connections between information and arguments
2.C.4 Interpret information and draw conclusions based on the best analysis
2.C.5 Reflect critically on learning experiences and processes
Solve Problems
2.D.1 Solve different kinds of non-familiar problems in both conventional and innovative ways
2.D.2 Identify and ask significant questions that clarify various points of view and lead to better solutions
Communication and Collaboration
Communicate Clearly
3.A.1 Articulate thoughts and ideas effectively using oral, written and nonverbal communication skills in a variety of forms and contexts
3.A.2 Listen effectively to decipher meaning, including knowledge, values, attitudes and intentions
3.A.3 Use communication for a range of purposes (e.g. to inform, instruct, motivate and persuade)
3.A.4 Utilize multiple media and technologies, and know how to judge their effectiveness a priori as well as assess their impact
3.A.5 Communicate effectively in diverse environments (including multi-lingual)
Collaborate with Others
3.B.1 Demonstrate ability to work effectively and respectfully with diverse teams
3.B.2 Exercise flexibility and willingness to be helpful in making necessary compromises to accomplish a common goal
3.B.3 Assume shared responsibility for collaborative work, and value the individual contributions made by each team member

Information, Media and Technology Skills

People in the 21st century live in a technology and media-suffused environment, marked by various characteristics, including: 1) access to an abundance of information, 2) rapid changes in technology tools, and 3) the ability to collaborate and make individual contributions on an unprecedented scale. To be effective in the 21st century, citizens and workers must be able to exhibit a range of functional and critical thinking skills related to information, media and technology.
Information Literacy
Access and Evaluate Information
4.A.1 Access information efficiently (time) and effectively (sources)
4.A.2 Evaluate information critically and competently
Use and Manage Information
4.B.1 Use information accurately and creatively for the issue or problem at hand
4.B.2 Manage the flow of information from a wide variety of sources
4.B.3 Apply a fundamental understanding of the ethical/legal issues surrounding the access and use of information
Media Literacy
Analyze Media
5.A.1 Understand both how and why media messages are constructed, and for what purposes
5.A.2 Examine how individuals interpret messages differently, how values and points of view are included or excluded, and how media can influence beliefs and behaviors
5.A.3 Apply a fundamental understanding of the ethical/legal issues surrounding the access and use of media
Create Media Products
5.B.1 Understand and utilize the most appropriate media creation tools, characteristics and     conventions
5.B.2 Understand and effectively utilize the most appropriate expressions and interpretations in    diverse, multi-cultural environments
Information, Communications and Technology (ICT) Literacy
Apply Technology Effectively
6.A.1 Use technology as a tool to research, organize, evaluate and communicate information
6.A.2 Use digital technologies (computers, PDAs, media players, GPS, etc.), communication/networking tools and social networks appropriately to access, manage, integrate, evaluate and create information to successfully function in a knowledge economy
6.A.3 Apply a fundamental understanding of the ethical/legal issues surrounding the access and use of information technologies

Life and Career Skills

Today’s life and work environments require far more than thinking skills and content knowledge. The ability to navigate the complex life and work environments in the globally competitive information age requires students to pay rigorous attention to developing adequate life and career skills.
Flexibility and Adaptability
Adapt to Change
7.A.1 Adapt to varied roles, jobs responsibilities, schedules and contexts  
7.A.2 Work effectively in a climate of ambiguity and changing priorities
Be Flexible
7.B.1 Incorporate feedback effectively
7.B.2 Deal positively with praise, setbacks and criticism
7.B.3 Understand, negotiate and balance diverse views and beliefs to reach workable solutions, particularly in multi-cultural environments
Initiative and Self-Direction
Manage Goals and Time
8.A.1 Set goals with tangible and intangible success criteria
8.A.2 Balance tactical (short-term) and strategic (long-term) goals
8.A.3 Utilize time and manage workload efficiently
Work Independently
8.B.1 Monitor, define, prioritize and complete tasks without direct oversight
Be Self-Directed Learners
8.C.1 Go beyond basic mastery of skills and/or curriculum to explore and expand one’s own learning    and opportunities to gain expertise
8.C.2 Demonstrate initiative to advance skill levels towards a professional level
8.C.3 Demonstrate commitment to learning as a lifelong process
8.C.4 Reflect critically on past experiences in order to inform future progress
Social and Cross-Cultural Skills
Interact Effectively with Others
9.A.1 Know when it is appropriate to listen and when to speak
9.A.2 Conduct themselves in a respectable, professional manner
Work Effectively in Diverse Teams
9.B.1 Respect cultural differences and work effectively with people from a range of social and cultural backgrounds
9.B.2 Respond open-mindedly to different ideas and values
9.B.3 Leverage social and cultural differences to create new ideas and increase both innovation and quality of work
Productivity and Accountability
Manage Projects
10.A.1 Set and meet goals, even in the face of obstacles and competing pressures
10.A.2 Prioritize, plan and manage work to achieve the intended result
Produce Results
10.B.1 Demonstrate additional attributes associated with producing high quality products including  the abilities to:
10.B.1.a Work positively and ethically
10.B.1.b Manage time and projects effectively
10.B.1.c Multi-task
10.B.1.d Participate actively, as well as be reliable and punctual
10.B.1.e Present oneself professionally and with proper etiquette
10.B.1.f Collaborate and cooperate effectively with teams
10.B.1.g Respect and appreciate team diversity
10.B.1.h Be accountable for results
Leadership and Responsibility
Guide and Lead Others
11.A.1 Use interpersonal and problem-solving skills to influence and guide others toward a goal
11.A.2 Leverage strengths of others to accomplish a common goal
11.A. 3 Inspire others to reach their very best via example and selflessness
11.A. 4 Demonstrate integrity and ethical behavior in using influence and power
Be Responsible to Others
11.B.1 Act responsibly with the interests of the larger community in mind


Exploratory courses will meet the following regulations:
1. Demonstrate application of the state and national core content standards in the context of preparing  for living, learning, and working.
1.1 Each CTE course will apply and contextualize state and national core content standards.
2.  Demonstrate foundational and career cluster specific skills required to meet current industry or nationally defined standards.
2.1 Each CTE course will teach to current industry or nationally defined standards, as evidenced in the curriculum frameworks, endorsed by local program specific advisory committees, and approved by the CTE program supervisors at OSPI.
2.2 CTE courses will incorporate curriculum focused on the interrelationships of family, career, and community roles and responsibilities.
2.3 Each CTE course will include extended learning into the, community/family, and  business/industry. Extended learning is managed and supervised by certified CTE teachers.
2.4 CTE courses must be taught by a certified CTE teacher with appropriate certification, knowledge, skills and occupational experience.
2.4.a After initial certification and five years of teaching, certified CTE teachers should gain additional experience in one or more of the jobs or careers in their teaching area. This  experience should take place every five years.
2.5 Each CTE course will provide safe and appropriate environments that support CTE program standards.
2.5.a Laboratories and equipment are appropriate to and support the OSPI approved  curriculum framework and industry training procedures.
2.5.b Facilities and equipment meet or exceed the related federal, state and county safety standards.
2.5.c Learning and training stations are of sufficient quantity to assure safe and appropriate supervision, delivery of instruction and student skill development.
2.6 Curriculum is based on occupational needs and is developed and maintained in consultation with program specific advisory committees.
3. Demonstrate knowledge of career options within the related career clusters.
3.1 Curriculum related to foundational knowledge and skills of a broad range of career options in a related program of study.
3.1.a These learning experiences include exploration of traditional and nontraditional careers in the program of study ranging from entry to professional level positions. 
4. Demonstrate leadership skills and employability skills.
4.1 Leadership and employability skill development for all students is a required and integral  component of all CTE courses.
4.1.a These leadership and employability skills are identified in the CTE Core Leadership Skills  document, the CTE Core Employability Skills document and/or 21st Century Skills document.
4.1.b All students demonstrate leadership and employability skills integrated in the approved curriculum framework and applied in real-world family, community, business/industry  applications.
4.1.c These skills are developed and practiced at the highest professional level through integration of aligned state-recognized Career and Technical Student Organizations (CTSOs).
4.1.d Locally developed leadership plans must demonstrate that these skills are developed and practiced at the highest level through classroom integration of individual, group and community programs and activities.


Preparatory courses expand upon exploratory course characteristics in specific and complex ways as regulated below:
1. Demonstrate industry identified competencies while integrating state and national core standards comprised of a sequenced progression of multiple courses that are technically intensive and rigorous.
1.1 Current industry defined standards, as evidenced in the curriculum frameworks, endorsed by a local advisory committee, and approved by the CTE program supervisors at OSPI.
1.1.a The level of competency is defined by industry or national standards.
1.1.b In the absence of national or state standards, locally developed, industry-defined standards will be validated by program-specific advisory committee.
1.1.c Aligns with post-secondary education allowing for articulated credit, where applicable.
1.2 Curriculum based on identified need and developed and maintained in consultation with program specific advisory committees.
1.3 Safe and appropriate environments that support CTE standards.
1.3.a Facilities and equipment meet or exceed the related federal, state and county safety standards.
1.3.b Laboratories and equipment meet industry training standards and facility safety standards.
1.3.c Learning and training stations are of sufficient quantity to assure safe and appropriate supervision, delivery of instruction and student skill development.
1.4 Certified CTE teachers with appropriate certification, knowledge, skills and occupational experience.
1.4.a After initial certification and five years of teaching, certified CTE teachers should gain additional experience in one or more of the jobs or careers in their teaching area. This experience should take place every five years.
1.5 Extended learning into the community.
1.5.a Extended learning is managed and/or supervised by certified CTE teachers.
1.6 Assessment of student competency of knowledge and skills as determined by industry defined standards.
1.7 Instruction that develops an understanding of all aspects of an industry associated with a specific CTE course.
1.8 Work-based learning opportunities as identified in the Washington State work-based learning document.
1.9 Instruction leads to state/nationally recognized industry assessment or certification necessary for employment or job advancement in that field and/or articulated college credit leading to post-secondary education.
2. Demonstrate leadership skills and employability skills.
2.1 Leadership and employability skill development for all students is a required and integral component of all CTE courses.
2.1.a These leadership and employability skills are identified in the CTE Core Leadership Skills document, CTE Core Employability Skills document and/or 21st Century Skills document.
2.1.b These leadership and employability skills are integrated in the approved curriculum framework and applied in real-world family, community, business and industry  applications.
2.1.c These skills are developed and practiced at the highest professional level through integration of aligned state-recognized Career and Technical Student Organizations (CTSOs).
2.1.d Locally developed leadership plans must demonstrate that these skills are developed and practiced at the highest level through classroom integration of individual, group and community programs and activities.
3. Demonstrate employment readiness and/or preparation for postsecondary options using state and  local programs of study, including;
3.1 Information about post-secondary education, training options, industry certifications, and  employment.
3.2 Articulation with apprenticeship programs and post-secondary education, where feasible.
3.3 Opportunities for nontraditional and special populations to receive training.
3.4 The utilization of data from student follow-up surveys to improve courses.
3.5 The utilization of current national, state or regional labor market information to demonstrate occupational need.


21st Century Skills:  21st century skills are the skills students need to succeed in work, school and life. They include:
  • Core subjects (as defined by NCLB)
  • 21st century content: global awareness; financial, economic, business and entrepreneurial literacy; civic literacy; and health and wellness awareness
  • Learning and thinking skills; critical thinking and problem solving skills, communications skills, creativity and innovation skills, collaboration skills, contextual learning skills and information and media literacy skills
  • Information and communications technology (ICT) literacy
  • Life skills: leadership, ethics, accountability, adaptability, personal productivity, personal responsibility, people skills, self-direction, and social responsibility
Advisory Committee:  A committee whose members should represent business and industry, education, labor organizations, special populations, community, government, students, parents and teachers. A majority of these members shall share a working knowledge of the job tasks and competencies required for related occupations, related labor market needs and courses necessary to meet these needs. The committee provides advice in the design, development, delivery, evaluation and continuous improvement of Career and Technical Education programs.  The committee meets on a regular basis and minutes are on file in the district. It is the local district’s responsibility to effectively inform committee members of Washington State Career and Technical Education Program Standards and the Federal Perkins Act. (This definition is aligned with the Perkins Act, Washington State RCW28C.04.100 and RCW 28A.150.500 as adopted by Washington state.)
General Advisory Committee:  provides direction and guidance to administrators and governing boards for the entire Career and Technical Education program offered by a district or institution.
Program Specific Advisory Committee:  provides direction and guidance to administrators and teachers for a specific Career and Technical Education program offered by a district or institution.
All Aspects of Industry:  All aspects of the industry or industry sector, including planning, management, finances, technical and production skills, underlying principles of technology, labor and community issues, health and safety issues and work environment issues.
Apprenticeship:  Relationships between an employer and employee during which the worker, or apprentice, learns an occupation in a registered program sponsored jointly by employers and labor unions or operated by a plant, employers, and employee associations.  Training programs are required to have a paid on-the-job work experience and related classroom instruction.
Career and Technical Education (CTE):  A planned program of courses and learning experiences that begins with exploration of career options, supports basic academic and life skills and enables achievement of high academic standards, leadership options for high skill, high wage employment preparation, and advanced and continuing education.
Career and Technical Student Organization (CTSO):  A Washington State recognized organization for individuals enrolled in a Career and Technical Education program that engages in CTE leadership skill development activities as an integral part of the instructional program.  For additional information, please refer to the Washington CTE Core Leadership Skills document.
Career Cluster:  A national model for the grouping of occupations and broad industries based on commonalities. The sixteen career clusters provide an organizing tool for schools, small learning communities, skill centers, academies, and magnet schools. Students will use these models to explore educational options that lead to employment.
Career Concentrator:  A secondary student who has enrolled in two or more CTE courses above the exploratory level in a single career cluster.
Articulated College Credit:  Courses offered at the secondary level that have been aligned to postsecondary courses in which students receive college credit, such as Tech Prep, College in the High School, Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, and Running Start.
Certified CTE Teacher:  A teacher that holds a CTE teaching certificate in an approved content area as documented by work experience and education endorsements.
Common Core State Standards:  The standards define the knowledge and skills students should have within their K-
Education careers so that they will graduate high school able to succeed in entry-level, credit-bearing academic college courses and in workforce training programs.  The standards:
  • Are aligned with college and work expectations;
  • Are clear, understandable and consistent;
  • Include rigorous content and application of knowledge through high-order skills;
  • Build upon strengths and lessons of current state standards;
  • Are informed by other top performing countries, so that all students are prepared to succeed in our global economy and society; and
  • Are evidence-based. 
Course Equivalency:  Full or partial academic credit is earned when a CTE course or sequence of CTE courses satisfies one or more academic subject areas required for graduation.
CTE Teaching Certificate:  A document from OSPI designating CTE certification.
Curriculum Framework:  Approved curriculum frameworks identify the required components of a CTE course. The components are Performance Assessments, Industry Defined Standards, Essential Academic Learning Requirements and Grade Level Expectations, Learning Standards, Performance Expectations, Thinking Skills, Leadership Skills, Employability Skills and Relevance to Work.
Employability Skills:  These skills are defined as 21st Century Skills.
Employment:  The work in which one is engaged.
Essential Academic Learning Requirements (EALRs), Grade Level Expectations (GLEs), and Performance Expectations (PE):  Statewide academic standards for reading, writing, communication, mathematics, science, history, geography, civics, economics, arts, and health & fitness.  These standards represent the specific academic skills and knowledge students will be required to meet in the classroom. 
Exploratory Courses:  CTE courses in which students demonstrate the application of EALRs, GLEs, and PEs in the context of preparing for living, learning and working; demonstrate foundational and occupational-specific skills required to meet current industry standards; explore and demonstrate knowledge of career options within the related career cluster; and demonstrate leadership and employability skills.
Extended Learning:  Learning and teaching activities related to career and technical education course or program competencies which occur beyond the scheduled school day and/or school year under the supervision of a certified CTE teacher.
High Demand Occupation:  An occupation with a substantial number of current or projected employment opportunities as identified by local, state, and/or federal entities who provide occupational demand analysis.
High Demand Program:  A CTE program that prepares students for either a high employer program of study or a high demand occupation. 
High Employer Demand Program of Study:  an apprenticeship or an undergraduate or graduate certificate or degree program in which the number of students per year prepared for employment for in-state programs is substantially fewer than the number of projected job openings per year in that field either statewide or in a sub state region. 
Identified Occupational Need:  Career and technical education programs will ensure academic rigor; align with the state's education reform requirements and; helps address the skills gap of Washington's economy as validated by a CTE advisory committee.
Industry Defined Standards:  Standards that specify the knowledge, skills and competencies required to perform successfully in the workplace. These standards define the technical content of CTE courses as defined in the OSPI/CTE model curriculum frameworks. In the absence of industry defined skill standards developed at the national or state level, local advisory committee validation will be required. 
Leadership Skills:  The ability to preside, guide or manage self, others, activities or events with responsibility for the final outcome. All students will demonstrate leadership skills in real-world, family, community, and business and industry settings. For further information, please see the Washington CTE Core Leadership Skills document.
Nontraditional Training and Employment:  – Occupations or fields of work in which individuals from one gender comprise less than 25 percent of the individuals employed in each occupation or field of work. 
Occupational Specific Skills:  Technical competencies and skill standards unique to a specific occupation that are required for successful workplace performance.
Pre-Apprenticeship:  A program that prepares individuals to apply and enter an apprenticeship program.
Preparatory Courses:  A technically intensive and rigorous CTE course or sequence of courses in which students demonstrate mastery of occupational specific skills including the application of EALRs and GLEs as required to meet industry defined standards needed for a specific career; leads to a certificate or credential necessary for employment or offers dual credit; and leads to workforce entry, approved apprenticeships, or postsecondary education in a related field.
Program:  A sequence of CTE courses and related learning experiences that is based on identified nontraditional, state, and regional employment needs that prepare students for responsible roles in employment, family community and continuing education.
Program Completer:  A secondary student who has completed a CTE instructional program.
Program of Study:  A coordinated, non-duplicative progression of courses that align secondary education with post-secondary education to adequately prepare students to enter into postsecondary education, an apprenticeship, and/or employment.
Special Populations:  The term ‘special populations' means:
  • individuals with disabilities;
  • individuals from economically disadvantaged families, including foster children;
  • individuals preparing for nontraditional training and employment;
  • single parents, including single pregnant women;
  • displaced homemakers; and
  • individuals with other barriers to educational achievement, including individuals with limited English proficiency. 
Student Leadership Development:  An integral part of the CTE instructional program; the process that enables students to fully utilize the subject matter content they receive through the Career and Technical Education program. Leadership skills empower each student to assume responsible roles in family, community, and business and industry environments. Through state recognized CTSOs, students have leadership skill development opportunities available at the local, state, national, and international level.
Worksite Learning document:  Learning experiences that connect knowledge and skills obtained in the classroom to those needed outside the classroom, and comprise a range of activities and instructional strategies designed to assist students in developing or fulfilling their education plans. For additional information, please refer to the OSPI Work-site Learning document.
Workplace:  Anywhere work is done.