Happy Birthday to Edleader21

It is hard to believe, but Edleader21 is 5 years old! We have become the largest professional learning  community of leaders focused on transforming K-12 education. We have grown from the original 20 superintendents to a national network of 175 members that includes 145 public school districts and 20 independent schools. Our growth is remarkable, but what I find most interesting are the lessons we have learned along the way. Here are a few:

Our common vision creates a powerful bond within EdLeader21. Because all of our members have used the 4Cs (critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity) as a starting point for their 21st century transformation efforts, they can collaborate in real time on common improvement strategies. Several members have commented that our annual events have become their most inspiring education event of the year because they are able to collaborate and learn in an environment of common purpose.

Our PLC provides strength in numbers.  In some contexts, leading educational transformation can feel lonely and the work can be isolating. Communicating a 21st century rationale and vision and sparking change can be challenging for leaders who are not surrounded by others engaged in similar work. Being part of a large network of like-minded transformers provides a safety net and affirmation.

Our members benefit from a blend of virtual and face-to-face interaction. We have been able to accomplish amazing things through virtual collaboration.  However, we find that incorporating face-to-face networking is crucial. In fact, the virtual connections are much more effective when they are rooted in face-to-face contact that we provide through our Annual Event and professional learning days.

Our collaborative project work provides strong professional development opportunities for our members. While the EdLeader21 staff has created many helpful tools like our community stakeholder outreach tools, the most powerful tools are those collaboratively produced by our members. Our 4Cs rubrics were produced by a working group involving 80 of our members. Our STEP21 self-assessment tool to measure implementation was produced by a working group composed of 35 members. Our working groups produce very useful resources for members, but they also provide powerful professional development for participants who learn from each other throughout the design and revision process.

These are just some of the lessons we have learned in creating our professional learning community for leaders. Here are a couple of reflections that you may consider:

  • Do you have a professional learning community for your leadership team?

  • Is your leadership team engaged in collaborative work as a part of professional development?

  • Would you benefit from being part of a professional learning community that ties you to other leaders who are doing similar work focused on 21st century student competencies?

As we look ahead to the next five years, we are even more hopeful about the potential of our Leadership PLC. We are building powerful self-assessment tools that members can use to reflect on their implementation efforts. This will allow us to hold each other's feet to the fire and create what I like to call "collaborative rigor". Teachers and instructional leaders from EdLeader21 member districts across the United States are analyzing critical thinking in student work from 30 classes, comparing results, and identifying strategies for improvement. This project, which we intend to scale, is an example of the powerful collaborative work happening within our PLC.

In 5 years, we will be even further down the implementation road. We are building collaborative tools and a culture of collaborative continuous improvement that will allow our members to sustain their transformation efforts. We hope you will consider joining our PLC. It would be great to have you on board when we celebrate our 10th birthday!


EdLeader21 is a national network of school and district leaders focused on integrating the 4Cs (critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity) into 21st Century education. For more information on how to become a member of EdLeader21, contact Sara Mobley at