Educators at Chandler’s Humphrey Elementary School hope to teach knowledge down to a core next year.
The kindergarten- through sixth-grade campus is adopting a nationally known content program for its students that is becoming more popular in Arizona.
And Humphrey’s first-year principal Luke Hickey doesn’t try to hide his excitement about the plan, which will make his the first district school in the East Valley to adopt the program.
Core Knowledge is a set of concepts educators can build upon to teach history, geography, mathematics, language and more. It was created by E. D. Hirsch.
When adopted by a school, teachers — using their own individual ways of teaching — present all students in the same grade the same material at the same time. When students in second grade are learning geography, they all learn the same vocabulary words. They all learn how a lake, river and mountain are demonstrated on a map or globe. Then the following year, the material in third grade builds on that and so on.
What first-grade teacher Laurie Croswhite likes about the program is it’s all contained in one book. The school doesn’t have to purchase new textbooks, but rather educators can use what they have and follow the sequence of steps in the teacher’s handbook to present the material.
“It shows when and what to teach, but now how,” she said, allowing her to create her own lesson plans. “I still have the ability to be who I am. This is not a scripted program. I can still be original.”
But the books, “are pretty detailed for us,” she said. The books present to teachers the concepts taught at a previous grade level, the goals for their own students, and the concepts that will be presented in the following year.
Each subject area lists specific topics of discussion and in what order to teach them. For instance, second-graders learning about U.S. history and the Westward expansion will discuss the invention of the steamboat, the transcontinental railroad, wagon trains on the Oregon Trail, the Pony Express and more.
“The information is all here. We don’t have to research it online,” Croswhite said.
Plus, parents can pick up a copy of the parent guide at any bookstore for each grade level. The parent guide provides ideas to spark dinner-time conversations about what students are learning, Hickey said.
He hopes to have a few available at the school for parents to check out of the library as well.
Hickey said he worked with the district’s administrators to implement the program at Humphrey, not only for its current students, but to draw in other students. The school is in a maturing neighborhood in Chandler and its enrollment has dropped.
“We were trying to think of something for Humphrey,” he said. The staff visited Grayhawk Elementary School in the Paradise Valley Unified School District, which also has the Core Knowledge program. They left excited about the possibilities, he said.
“This offers another choice,” he said, to students who live around Humphrey or those who choose to open enroll at the school. “Whether or not it brings one more student to the campus, it’s great for the students now and all the stakeholders, the teachers, parents and students.”
More than 700 schools in the country have adopted some or part of the Core Knowledge program officially, while others may use pieces here and there, according to the Core Knowledge website.