Core Knowledge vs. Common Core
What should all children learn? That question has been pondered by schools, educations systems, and governments for centuries. It is an important question to address, especially considering the vast benefits of adopting a national education standard. In this article we will discuss the Common Core standards, what they mean for our current education system, and how the Core Knowledge curriculum goes above and beyond national standards to provide the best education possible for our children.
What Is the Core Knowledge Curriculum?
Though the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) establish a set of educational guidelines for language arts and mathematics, they do not define a curriculum through which students can best learn these disciplines. For this reason, schools must choose a curriculum they feel will best educate their students while aligning with their educational and curricular goals. This is where the Core Knowledge Curriculum comes in.
Founded in 1986, the Core Knowledge Curriculum was created by E.D. Hirsch Jr. based on his belief that reading difficulties were caused by a lack of context. If students were able to receive background knowledge on a particular subject, he reasoned, they would be better able to make sense of what they were reading. For example, instead of helping students identify the various acts of the American Revolution on a timeline, it might help them to understand what all of those acts are. By having a deeper knowledge of the subject matter, students focus more on developing knowledge of a subject, and less on memorizing facts pertinent to it.
To test this theory, a three-year pilot program was put into place in New York City where ten schools of differing demographic backgrounds taught the Core Knowledge Curriculum, and compared their results to ten demographically similar schools. At the end of three years, those schools teaching from the Core Knowledge Curriculum outperformed those who didn’t in nearly every language arts subject including social studies, science, and reading.
How Does the Core Knowledge Curriculum Differ from the Common Core Standards
Just as the Core Knowledge Curriculum outlines how to teach students, the Common Core Standards outline what to teach students. This became an important political initiative in the 1990’s when colleges and employers began to request higher standards of learning for their students and employees. Despite 12 years of schooling, they believed students weren’t receiving the knowledge necessary to compete in the working world. For this reason, the National Governors Association set out to establish a set of education standards that each student should be expected to understand by the end of each grade.
By 2009, the Common Core State Standards Initiative was released in hopes that high school graduates nationwide would receive a comprehensive education that well equipped them for success in school, business, and life. It was accepted by forty-two states (including Oregon) and though it provides goals for each grade, it is up to state and local schooling organizations to determine the curriculum and assessment methods necessary to meet them.
Already an established teaching method at the time, the Core Knowledge Curriculum provided a solid educational framework by which the Common Core Standards could be met. By teaching a core body of knowledge that students could build upon, the Core Knowledge Curriculum enabled students to meet the state requirements for their grade, while maintaining a better, and more lasting understanding of the subject matter.
Why Eastmont School Teaches the Core Knowledge Sequence
Eastmont School adheres to the Core Knowledge Sequence in order to provide a solid foundation in history, technology, science, geography, music, health, and the visual arts. By providing comprehensive knowledge of each subject, our students are able to understand (rather than merely memorize) foundational concepts that will help them go on to excel in high school, college, and life.
Our program begins in preschool where children between the ages of 3-5 are taught the Core Knowledge Preschool Sequence as well as the Zoo-phonics multi-sensory program. Core Knowledge provides foundational knowledge such as motor skills, social and emotional development, language skills, creativity in music and art, basic mathematics including numbers and money, the concepts of space and time, and basic human needs such as air, water, light, and the seasons.
This is partnered with Zoo-phonics which uses pictures, physical movement, and audible sounds, to teach reading, writing, and spelling skills in a playful and energetic way. This is beneficial for students of all learning abilities as it encourages them to get up out of their seats and participate in the alphabet in a multi-sensory way. Even children who may have learning disabilities are able to approach reading and writing comprehension using this exceptional method.