Academic excellence and our children's future - a talk with Dr. Tony Wagner

Are you thoughtful and demanding of education? I am. Imagine if you had access to the priorities of the hiring managers from Google, Cisco, Apple, Johnson & Johnson, US Army and more as well as admissions officers from top medical, law and business school to be certain your child was getting the education they'd need to compete in the marketplace as an adult.

Dr. Tony Wagner did that research and synthesized his findings in his book, The Global Achievement Gap, which is a must read for anybody who cares about K-12 education. 

Tony interviewed business and civic leaders around the world to ascertain what skills and attributes they needed from their workforce. His research demonstrates that US educational policy in the last 25 years is not generating a competitive citizenry that can grow the US economy in the 21st century. His book highlights the seven survival skills for success in the 21st century and the schools and programs innovating to ensure their graduates have at least the 4Cs and potentially the Seven Survival Skills.

According to all the leaders he interviewed, the 4 most critical survival skills are:

  • Critical thinking and problem solving – evidenced by students who ask really good questions
  • Collaboration – evidenced by students working together and leading by influence
  • Creativity, curiosity and imagination – the ability to develop many different possibilities, quickly
  • Communication – both oral and written communication

Tony has no doubt that K-8 education can develop these four critical survival skills in our students. My school's entire faculty committed this year to developing the assessments that enable us to track progress on these survival skills. They are committed to accountability in education – by measuring what matters and tracking our students’ and school’s progress.

It’s reasonable as you think about Academic Excellence to think about content literacy. In order to demonstrate mastery of any of these survival skills, students must be literate in facts – but no high school or college professor complains about students’ lack of content knowledge.  They know that students (and workers) today can access content in real-time from their laptop, iPad, phone. They report that students cannot write, organize their work, manage their time or set up study groups.

The remaining three survival skills are agility and adaptability, accessing and analyzing information, intiative and entrepreneurism. Do you observe your children learning these skills at their school?

The seven survival skills are built upon a solid social, emotional and ethical foundation. Qualities such as empathy, integrity, kindness, self-motivation and personal excellence are critical. Does your school and religious institution explain why these "qualities of the heart" matter?

How do you define academic excellence?  How do you measure attainment of it? Do the seven survival skills resonate with you? 

This post is an adaption of a Board Buzz post on the Wornick web site.