Colorado Essential Skills Framework

Colorado Department of Education

The Essential Skills Framework defines skills and skill attainment indicators for four learning and age levels.

What This Includes

Skills addressed: Self-Awareness, Initiative & Self-Direction, Personal Responsibility & Self-Management, Adaptability & Flexibility, Perseverance & Resilience, Critical Thinking & Problem Solving, Creativity & Innovation, Inquiry & Analysis, Risk-Taking, Collaboration & Teamwork, Strong Communication Skills, Global & Cultural Awareness, Civic Engagement & Strong Character, Task & Time Management, Career Awareness, Information Literacy, Productivity & Accountability, Self-Advocacy & Leadership

Skills Framework

  • Indicators of skill attainment written at four levels: Novice, Advanced Beginner, Strategic Learner, Emerging Expert

Key Takeaways

  • The Essential Skills Framework is designed to help K–12 educators integrate new 21-century workplace standards into their curricula and lesson plans.
  • Indicators of skill attainment are appropriate and relevant applications at any age, moving from more basic rules and directions (Novice) to analysis and higher order thinking (Emerging Expert). For example, Novice learners applying Global and Cultural Awareness show attainment when they compare their own beliefs to others, while Emerging Experts show attainment when they apply knowledge and perspective to solve global and interdisciplinary problems.

The Colorado Department of Education coordinated the effort to create this Skills Framework and resource guide. The Essential Skills Skills Framework was informed by the Colorado Talent Pipeline report in 2015, which sought to identify the most in-demand workforce skills, especially for jobs with high growth rates. Hundreds of education, community, and business leaders came together to revise and define the 21st-century skills essential to workforce and postsecondary education readiness, arriving at 20 essential skills which fall under four categories: Entrepreneurial, Personal, Civic/Interpersonal, and Professional.

Adaptability & Flexibility


Critical & Creative Thinking

Digital Literacy

Emotional Intelligence

Leadership & Initiative

Navigating & Using Information

Respecting Differences


Teamwork & Collaboration

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