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Core Knowledge schools

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By Linda Jacobson

What does the research say?

So do students in a Core Knowledge school know what they need to know to do well on those assessments?

At Peach Hill, for example, the staff works to make sure they are covering both the Core Knowledge Sequence and the California state standards.

Research on a sample of Core Knowledge schools in Maryland indicated that it is possible for those using the Sequence to succeed in improving standardized test scores. But the five-year study, by researchers at Johns Hopkins University, also showed that certain conditions improve the chances that implementation of the program in a state with high-stakes assessments will go smoother. Those conditions include support from the district, low teacher mobility, and extra funding for common planning time, materials, and participation in Core Knowledge conferences. It’s also important for the school to be succeeding at teaching basic reading and math skills that are not covered by the Sequence.

The most recent study comes from New York City, where a group of 10 elementary schools has been using a new Core Knowledge Reading Program curriculum in kindergarten through second grade. The study finds that in second grade, reading comprehension scores in the 10 schools were significantly higher than in a comparison group of 10 schools. Scores in science and social studies were also higher. The study, however, also showed that the differences between the two groups of schools decreased by the third year.

Important points to consider

Core Knowledge, Yasenchok says, can be and adapted to meet students’ needs, fit with other school programs, and blend with teachers’ interests just like any other curriculum. But it takes skilled teachers, such as Peach Hill’s Paula Cirillo, who successfully integrates Core Knowledge with stories from the Magic Tree House series.

While Core Knowledge provides students with a solid foundation in learning, the school is also part of a district that provides the latest classroom technology, making sure students have the skills they need to advance and use what they’ve learned in today’s world.

As Yasenchok puts it, Core Knowledge is “a piece of who we are.”

A final word of advice

As with any school you're considering for your child, visit the school! Talk to other parents whose children attend (or attended) the school for honest feedback. Finally, ask yourself, "Is this the right school for my child?"

Linda Jacobson is a freelance education writer who lives in Southern California.