Member Practices

Crossing the Borders of State and District Lines: Metro 4Cs Rubric Work

By Molly J. Bestge, Secondary Curriculum Coordinator for West Fargo Public Schools, West Fargo, ND

This blog post describes how three EdLeader21 member districts joined forces to refine the EdLeader21 4Cs rubrics and articulate the 4Cs across grade spans as part of their effort to transform 21st century education.

West Fargo Public Schools brought a contingency of K-12 school leaders to the EdLeader21 Conference in the fall of 2013 in Chicago. At the conference, we set the goal for our district to move forward with the use of the 4Cs rubrics K-12. We knew that we wanted to align the rubrics to the Common Core State Standards and include the language of the things we value in our district strategic plan--the Engineering Design Process and the ISTE Standards. The rubrics are designed for customization, which worked well for us as we intended to use the rubrics for student self-assessment and reflection and elected to make some revisions to incorporate more student-friendly language. As we returned home and started the work, we realized that this work could become something larger for the students and teachers in the West Fargo, Fargo, and Moorhead area. West Fargo was going to do the work anyway, but it didn’t make sense for us to do this work in isolation.

We live in a thriving metro community that crosses the borders of two states (North Dakota and Minnesota) and encompasses three districts (West Fargo, Fargo, and Moorhead). If we harnessed the brain and people power of the three metro districts, we were more powerful together than we were apart. And so the metro schools work began around a table before Christmas, 2013. Two of our districts had already explored the work of EdLeader21, and we shared the value of being a part of the national PLC in EdLeader21 with the third district. By the end of the meeting, we were all members of EdLeader21 and had decided to move forward in creating a set of 6-12 4Cs rubrics to start the process.

The hard work ensued to mold and craft the 4Cs rubrics into documents that reflected all three districts’ strategic plans and would be usable for the “masses.” We worked from the lens that teachers would be able to lift performance indicators and specific pieces of the rubric to fit with specific assessments, projects, and activities. Teachers would not use the rubrics in their entirety, but instead would use the pieces of the rubrics that made sense for self-assessment and formative assessment of the 4Cs. This work was daunting, time-consuming, spurred discourse and deep conversation, and was incredibly rewarding. The end products were rubrics for the 4Cs that could be used by all of our secondary teachers in grades 6-12 in all three districts. We had created common language and a common vision for the 4Cs. This type of work was unprecedented among our three districts. We were finally playing in the same “sandbox” and doing so with joyful hearts.

Then the elementary work ensued. We directly aligned the 6-12 rubrics to the K-5 rubrics and modified some of the language to fit better for elementary school children. We now have 3-5 rubrics, in hopes to break it down even further to K-2. The common rubrics have created common vocabulary for regional collaboration in both the elementary and secondary schools.
But this was only the beginning. The Metro 4Cs Rubric work has morphed into the Metro 21C work. Our business community heard about our collaboration and became interested in what we were doing. West Fargo hosted an unconventional day of professional learning called InSourced: Developing tomorrow’s workforce through today’s educators. Speakers from different career clusters spoke about the importance of the 4Cs in their daily work to over 400 secondary staff members. In the afternoon, educators went on “adventures” to visit local business and industry partners to actually see the 4Cs in action. (A blog post with pictures can be found at http://mollybestge.com/2014/03/insourced-a-professional-learning-event/) West Fargo educators came alive and saw the connection and importance of going outside of the classroom walls to make learning come alive with intention and purpose.

The Education that Works (www.educationthatworksndmn.org) partnership grew from our Metro 4Cs work, as well. This partnership has allowed for continued collaboration among the districts and community partners (The Greater Fargo Moorhead Economic Development Corporation and the United Way of Cass-Clay) around 21st Century Skills and Project-Based Learning. A video project to help define 21st Century learning for our community became a priority. The three districts collaborated on a half-day training for all administrators to get acquainted with the 4Cs rubrics and develop plans for how to share with staff and implement effectively. We continued our collaboration on Tech Camp, a three-day training for educators on technology integration and best-practices and also worked together on offering a technology camp for middle school students focused on coding for students in the metro area.

Perhaps one of the most exciting collaborations from the Metro 21C group has been obtaining funding through Education that Works to provide intensive training in Project-Based Learning (PBL) for over 100 educators in the metro area this July. We partnered with High Tech High (http://www.hightechhigh.org/schools/HTH/) to bring in outside experts to support our educators in developing a deeper understanding of PBL and learn how to develop relevant, engaging, and timely PBL experiences for our students. On the first day of the training, teachers became the students and participated in a “Project Slice.” They developed essential questions around the big idea of growth and explored this with various partners in our community. Perhaps the most profound take-away from the experience came from the group of 10 teachers who visited with the superintendents from West Fargo, Fargo, and Moorhead. The groups reported back how impressed they were to see the superintendents modeling the 4Cs in the high-level work of the districts and that each district expects that same modeling from its administration and teachers. The final product of the PBL training is a GoogleSite with the PBL each teacher or teacher team creates and those products will be shared with the entire Education that Works community. The Metro21C group has committed to continuing these training offerings for three summers to build capacity in our staffs in the metro area.

Future plans include a common book study on The Leader’s Guide to 21st Century Education: 7 Steps for Schools and Districts by Ken Kay and Valerie Greenhill and more opportunities for metro administrators to come together as a functional PLC with the 4Cs as the focus.

Who knew that getting a few district administrators from three different districts around a table in December 2013 would have snowballed into what the Metro 21C work has become. Our districts are committed to this very important work, will continue to plan for opportunities for community collaboration, are exploring how to track the growth in the skills our students obtain, and will look forward to how the use and common language of the Metro 4Cs rubrics will transform 21st century education in West Fargo, Fargo, and Moorhead.


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. To purchase the 4Cs rubrics mentioned above, click here, or for more information, contact Sara Mobley at smobley@edleader21.com