Educators from across the region, as well as Raleigh County Schools Superintendent Charlotte Hutchens and state schools Superintendent Steve Paine, gathered at Woodrow Wilson High School Thursday evening to participate in Voices from the Field: A Forum for West Virginia Educators.

In November, West Virginia became the second state accepted into the Partnership for 21st Century Skills.

The purpose of the 21st century initiative is to prepare today’s students for the global job market, ensuring they are skilled at problem-solving and critical thinking, as well as technology.

Paine told the audience other countries are demonstrating a greater commitment to brain power than the United States.

By 2010, Paine said studies show, 90 percent of the world’s scientists will be living in Asia.

Companies such as Intel, Microsoft, Dell and Ford have joined the 21st century initiative and have told educators they need workers who can solve problems, think critically, work together in groups and use technology skills.

In order for the United States, and West Virginia, to catch up and regain its place at the top of the education ladder, Paine said, creating a 21st century classroom which will produce 21st century learners is of utmost importance.

“As educators, our challenge is to provide instruction that is not only relevant, engaging and meaningful, but that also includes the world-class rigor necessary to prepare our students to be competitive in the 21st century workplace,” Paine said.

The 21st century education model includes six key elements.

First, students must demonstrate knowledge of the core subjects identified in No Child Left Behind legislation at a mastery level.

The plan also includes 21st century content, which means global awareness, financial, economic, business and civic literacy are integrated with the core courses.

Learning skills, the third element, include information and communication skills, thinking and problem-solving skills and interpersonal and self-directional skills.

The final elements are 21st century context and assessments.

Through the context element, students will learn content through real-world examples and the progress made in the 21st century model will be assessed by teachers and administrators.

Those teachers in attendance ended the evening by breaking up into groups to answer two questions: What knowledge and skills do West Virginia graduates need to succeed in the 21st century and what do teachers need to educate a 21st century learner?

“We’re going to listen and obtain feedback,” Paine told the teachers. “The initiative will focus on building on your past successes.”

Over the next few weeks, similar forums will take place at schools across the state.

Information compiled from the teachers will be posted online at http://wvde.state.wv. us.

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