The fastest-growing job sectors are those that require problem-solving and critical thinking skills, while jobs that require routine manual skills are in decline. By 2020, two out of three jobs will require postsecondary education and training beyond high school.1 Consequently, high school graduates need to master challenging academic content and develop skills in communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and problem solving that they can apply to complex and new situations. Yet too few of the nation’s students, and even fewer traditionally underserved students, demonstrate the college- and career-readiness skills necessary to succeed in an increasingly complex economy.


4 out of 5 employers say that recent high school graduates have some gaps in their career preparation.2


1 in 6 students are unable to solve problems that require thinking ahead or applying content knowledge to an unfamiliar setting.3


Fewer than 1 in 5 students from low-income families make inferences from information and use abstract thinking to problem solve.4

What skills should students have?

The most effective instruction is rigorous, equitable, and prepares all students for college, a career, and life success through deeper learning experiences. Deeper learning experiences allow students to develop these critical competencies:

Content Mastery

Students apply new knowledge to real-world situations.


Effective Communication

Students demonstrate skills in active listening, clear writing, and persuasive presentation.

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Critical Thinking & Problem Solving

Students consider a variety of approaches to produce innovative solutions.

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Students work with their peers, assume leadership roles, resolve conflicts, and manage projects.

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Self-directed learning

Students use teacher feedback to monitor and direct their own learning, both in and out of the classroom.

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Academic mindset

Students feel a sense of belonging and the motivation to persist through their school work.

Explore the instructional approaches that foster deeper learning outcomes for students

Equitable opportunities for students to learn deeply.

Schools that offer deeper learning experiences to all students, including students from low-income families and students of color, have

  • stronger academic outcomes,

  • better attendance and student behavior,

  • lower dropout rates,

  • higher high school graduation rates, and

  • higher rates of college attendance and persistence.5

Take action to create deeper learning experiences for all students

Improve Practice

Improve learning experiences for students

Engaging all students in deeper learning often requires shifts in instruction and assessment. Access resources and professional development opportunities to strengthen rich and meaningful learning for all students.

Take Action
Inform Policy

Inform policy to enable deeper learning

Changes in accountability procedures, assessments, teacher preparation, and class time can lead to better learning outcomes for students. Inform policies that affect these and other conditions needed to foster deeper learning in schools.

Take Action
Build Partnerships

Develop partnerships for postsecondary education and careers

Businesses, higher education institutions, and community organizations play an important role in supporting the learning experiences that prepare students for success in college and a career.

Take Action

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