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Essential Skills Guidance

Colorado Academic Standards: All Students, All Standards

Essential Skills Guidance Resource

CDE has launched an opportunity for feedback on updates to Colorado’s 21st Century Skills as part of the standards review and revision process. CDE is now referring to the "21st Century Skills" as "Essential Skills" students should develop to be successful in post-secondary education and the workplace. For example, in previous 21st Century Skills guidance, there were five categories of: critical thinking and reasoning, information literacy, collaboration, self-direction, and invention. The Essential Skills Guidance Resource proposes four categories of: entrepreneurial, personal, civic/interpersonal, and professional to better align the standards review and revision process to state initiatives that span a continuum from school readiness to post-secondary and workforce readiness. A cross-unit team of specialists at CDE developed the Essential Skills Guidance Resource and look forward to receiving stakeholder feedback to finalize this draft.

This guidance document is a working draft. Please feel free to share your general feedback with the standards team at

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Provide feedback on updates to Colorado’s 21st Century Skills which are now referred to as "Essential Skills". Listen to March webinar recording on the proposed updates to the 21st Century Skills.

Purpose of the Essential Skills Guidance Resource

Colorado passed legislation in 2008, Senate Bill 08-212, that requires Colorado public preschool through elementary and secondary education standards shall ensure that, in addition to measuring a student's subject matter knowledge, the standards, to the extent practicable, will require a student to develop and demonstrate:

  • creativity and innovation skills;
  • critical-thinking and problem-solving skills;
  • communication and collaboration skills;
  • social and cultural awareness;
  • civic engagement;
  • initiative and self-direction;
  • flexibility;
  • productivity and accountability;

  • character and leadership;
  • other skills critical to preparing students for the twenty-first-century workforce and for active citizenship. C.R.S. 22-7-1005 (2016).

During the 2008-10 standards development pocess, these skills were referred to as “21st Century Skills”. Development of these skills begins at birth and is continuous and cumulative, crossing students’ age and developmental phases. They are skills that provide the strong foundation and ongoing support for success in school and throughout life. Moving forward, the department is proposing that these skills will be referred to as “Essential Skills” and provide a common understanding and approach across all content areas involved in the standards review and revision process.

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