Administration & Leadership

Becoming a 21st Century School or District: Community Consensus Around the 4C’s (Step 2 of 7)

Support your vision by building consensus among key stakeholders

September 15, 2011

Welcome back to the "7 Steps for Becoming a 21st Century School or District." As you will recall, in Step 1 you developed a list of the student outcomes that your students will need to become 21st century citizens and workers. Now, in Step 2, we want you to use that list to start a community conversation around your 21st century education vision. Although your list may contain other skills, for the purposes of this "7 Steps" series we are going to simplify and use the 4C's:

  • Critical thinking
  • Communication
  • Collaboration
  • Creativity
Specifically, in Step 2 we will focus on how you can use your communication and collaboration skills to move your vision forward.

Communicate the Importance of the 4C's

For Step 2 you will need to "model" for your school or district your "A-game" communication skills. You will need to hone your messaging. You will need to crisply explain why you chose the four to six skills you selected in your personal vision and why they need to become part of the school or district's 21st century model.

You should also become adept at storytelling. Develop a set of stories you like to tell about changes in society and the 4C's (see Step 1). Everyone loves stories. When I give a presentation and ask someone what they remember, invariably it's the story I told.

Another suggestion is to use videos. There is a very new video out on the 4C's that has just been released by P21 and FableVision, called "Above and Beyond." It is a fun conversation starter. Your homework assignment this week is to view the video and consider how you can use it when communicating your vision within your community.

A third suggestion is to create book groups around 21st century education. In some schools or districts everyone has been asked to read the same book. Here are three good ones:

Once you are able to communicate your vision you will need to build consensus with others.

Collaborate Around the 4C's

As you think about how to build a broad consensus around your vision think about the stakeholders who could potentially support this vision. Consider the following list:

  • Educators
  • Parents
  • Students
  • School Board Members
  • Business Leaders
  • Youth Development Groups
  • Museums and Libraries

What other groups would you add to this list?

In addition to reaching out to the groups individually you will want to build a process for reaching consensus. In some districts they have created advisory groups of a diverse set of stakeholders. Upper Arlington City School District in Ohio used this process. In Virginia Beach, Virginia, they brought 1,000 community members together in their convention center to get consensus on a common vision for their district. These processes will insure that all stakeholders have a chance to participate in developing the 21st century vision for your school or district.


As you think about how to communicate and collaborate toward a consensus, these summary questions may be helpful:

  • Have you finalized a set of messages about why your school or district needs a 21st century model?
  • Have you chosen some videos and books to use with your stakeholders?
  • Have you identified the stakeholders in the education community and the broader community that you will need to reach out to?
  • Have you identified a process for building consensus?

In Becoming a 21st Century School or District, Step 1: Adopt Your Vision you identified your personal vision. In Step 2 you developed ways to communicate and collaborate around that vision. If you are successful, at the end of Step 2 you will have built a community consensus around a shared vision for 21st century education. But steps 1 and 2 are just the "table-setters." The real work of translating your vision into practices that impact students remain ahead of us. Next stop: Step 3: Align your system with the 4C's. See you then!

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