Many of the watch words of modern ed are here: 21st Century Skills, hands-on, skills-based, project based, etc.Back in 1998, Connecticut had higher reading scores than Massachusetts. But just as the Bay State was adopting clearly articulated academic goals, Connecticut opted for a "hands-on," skills-based approach. By 2005, Massachusetts's scores had jumped dramatically, and Connecticut was one of seven states experiencing outsized drops in reading scores.West Virginia’s was perhaps the most enthusiastic embrace of 21st century skills. As Matthew Ladner, a research scholar at the Foundation for Excellence in Education, has demonstrated, its impact on poor students is deeply troubling. West Virginia is the only state whose NAEP reading and math scores for students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch fell between 2003 and 2009.
What Massachusetts did was adapt an ED Hirsch style core knowledge curriculum. This is very different than the Gates Foundation's Common Core. Hirsch's program relies on rich and varied reading in history, science, fiction, poetry, the world, as well as a solid math curriculum. Hirsch's curriculum builds vocabulary, real thinking and analysis skills, grammar, etc.
"21st Century Skills" programs teach kids how to Google and use Powerpoint, because that's what they'll need in the future.