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Core Knowledge

What is Core Knowledge?

The educational focus of Paragon Collegiate Academy will be college preparatory courses that focus on Core Knowledge curriculum.

Core Knowledge is based on the premise that people need a common base of knowledge to function well in a democratic society, and schools are responsible for providing this base, to every student. Because their opportunities for learning outside the classroom may be limited, gaining this core knowledge in school is particularly important for children from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Core Knowledge also builds on the fact that the ease with which one learns new information is highly determined by the amount of background knowledge one has already learned on a given topic. The more you know, the more you can learn. Reading with comprehension, speaking and writing fluently, and critical thinking all rely on a rich vocabulary and broad knowledge-base. It is critical for schools to address this in the earliest grades, where differences in background knowledge among advantaged and disadvantaged students are less pronounced (Chall, et al., 1982).  The most effective and efficient way to narrow the performance gap is through a carefully planned, specific and sequential program identifying what students will learn and spirals year-by-year, deepening and broadening students’ knowledge and skills (Stringfield, et al., 1999). 

The Core Knowledge Sequence

The Core Knowledge Sequence: Content Guidelines for Kindergarten through Eighth Grade and the Core Knowledge is detailed outlines of specific content (and skills) taught in English/language arts, history, geography, mathematics, science, and the fine arts. As the core of school curriculum it establishes a solid, coherent foundation of learning, along with embedded flexibility for meeting local needs. The Core Knowledge Sequence is not a list of facts to be memorized. Rather, it is a guide to coherent content, designed to encourage steady academic progress as children build knowledge and skills from one grade to the next. 
The specificity of the Core Knowledge Sequence distinguishes it from other curricula. While most provide general guidelines concerning skills, they typically offer little help in deciding specific content. The specific content in the Core Knowledge Sequence provides a solid foundation for skills instruction. Moreover, because the Sequence builds knowledge systematically year by year, it helps prevent repetitions and gaps in instruction that can result from vague curricular guidelines (for example, repeated units on “Pioneer Days” or “Saving the Rain Forest;” or inadequate attention to the Bill of Rights, or to the geography of Africa, et cetera). 
Core Knowledge Schools are dedicated to teaching solid academic content and skills to all children. To implement Core Knowledge, many people, including staff and parents, engage in a great deal of thoughtful discussion and cooperative planning. The Sequence’s high level of specificity grounds communication among staff members and with parents, providing a shared basis for understanding each child’s curriculum and instruction. Teachers make a commitment to teach all the topics in the Core Knowledge Sequence at the assigned grade levels, and this commitment ensures consistency and helps avoid serious gaps and needless repetitions.

The Sequence serves as the planning document in each classroom. Core Knowledge Schools align the Core Knowledge topics with state and district standards, then develop curriculum plans for teaching all requisite topics and standards. Core Knowledge enables schools to work more effectively by exploiting “time on task” and providing schools an organizational focus.
 Core Knowledge Sequence is implemented horizontally, vertically, and in an interdisciplinary way. The curriculum is horizontal because every 7th grade teacher in the school teaches the same material at the same time. It is vertical because the 6th grade teachers know what was learned in 5th grade and what they must teach in 7thgrade to prepare students for 8th.  It is an interdisciplinary curriculum because, for example, when students learn about the 1920’s in their history class, they are also learning about jazz artists in their music class, dancing the Charleston in their physical education class, and studying the Scopes Monkey trials in science class and the stock market crash in their math class.