Core Knowledge

Deconstructing Core Knowledge

Over the past several months, the North Bay Education Foundation has made a series of presentations on the Core Knowledge Curriculum. The NBEF has presented this curriculum as a superior alternative to the curriculum provided across Novato Unified Schools. This is meant to offer some counterpoints to those claims.

Core Knowledge(CK) was created by University of Virginia professor E.D. Hirsch in the 1980’s. The basic tenant of CK is a belief that there is a definable, grade-by-grade core of common learning necessary for a good education and that there is a specific set of facts that every American should know.

Over the last three and half decades since the CK was developed, many of the ideas of Hirsch and CK have flowed into and out of district curriculums across the country and several of the more novel ideas from Hirsch were blended into our education systems.

In 2010, a panel of educators pulled together the best ideas from across the country, including many ideas from CK and drafted the Common Core Standards. Forty-seven states adopted the Common Core over the last year, including California.

You can read Hirsch's own assessment of the Common Core Standards:

To their credit, the authors of the Common Core standards have taken pains to get this right, and it is a master stroke. –Hirsch

It is clear that the Common Core Standards are the current best practice in education and the way to educate students for the 21st century. A Standard is nothing without teachers able to teach to that Standard. The NUSD is committed to fully adopting the Common Core and is already on its way to giving teachers the training and resources to teach to the Common Core Standard.

In addition to the Common Core, NUSD has a district-wide Art Docent Program for elementary schools, music programs for K-3 students, and beginning band for 4th and 5th grades. Our middle schools support a multitude of band, choral, drama and visual arts programs. The electives offered at the middle school level also include true foreign languages classes. All of these feed into highly respected high school programs.

NBEF has also touted the scaffold or spiral methodology taken in the CK curriculum. These approaches are not unique to CK. The NUSD uses text books from grade to grade that are sequential and consistent. The district's Guided Language Acquisition Design (GLAD) implementation is a proven system for promoting high language standards across all content areas and is aligned with the Common Core Standards for language arts. The NUSD does not prescribe specific methodologies, rather they allow the schools and teachers to adopt those most effective for their environment.

NUSD is starting to realize the benefits of its multi-year work to establish Professional Learning Communities that foster collaboration and shared learning among our staff members. Technology is already being leveraged in NUSD to support blended learning and differentiated instruction at the individual student level.


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