When your child is approaching school age, you probably do a lot of research into schools. You’ll look at their neighborhood school, as well as other public schools, such as schools of choice, and private schools. You’ll take note of their philosophy and the curriculum they use to teach the students that go there. In this respect, many parents have heard of Core Knowledge, but they may not know what it is or why it’s important.

At New Vision Charter School, a K-8 school located in Loveland, Colorado, our curriculum follows the Core Knowledge sequence. Below, we’ll go over what is Core Knowledge and why it’s important for your child’s education. Contact us today for a tour and for enrollment information!


Core Knowledge is an idea proposed and expounded on by E.D. Hirsch Jr., a professor at the University of Virginia in 1986. The idea is that children need a common core knowledge — a base knowledge if you will — that is built upon in order to learn more. The central idea is that knowledge builds knowledge, and that knowledge is built upon every year your child is in school.

The other premise to Core Knowledge is that the same sequence of learning is taught, meaning a standardization of knowledge, to all kids. Thus, if your child attends school in Colorado as a kindergartner, and you then move to Connecticut, your child will have learned the same material in kindergarten as the other students if it’s a Core Knowledge school. This foundation, Hirsh proposes, is what enables kids to learn more and to have the same base knowledge as every other child across the United States.

By having a shared knowledge, children can become amazing members of society, become better readers, and can advance educationally when they possess this knowledge that everyone else does.


Core Knowledge Builds a Strong Foundation of Knowledge

Core Knowledge tells the educator what a child should specifically know at what age. This sequential learning is meant to be built upon every year and is different from other curriculums in that it does focus on knowledge, not on what students can do. For example, in order for students to begin thinking about how the universe was formed, they need a baseline knowledge of the solar system, planets, stars, and the like. To understand why there are seasons, they need to know how the earth rotates around the sun, about its tilt, and about the different hemispheres of the earth.

Once this foundation is there, higher-order thinking can take place. Students can then organize the information learned, evaluate it, and then apply it as they learn more throughout their school years.

Core Knowledge Organizes the Content

Speaking of organizing, Core Knowledge is very organized and systematic in terms of the order that it teaches knowledge. First, it teaches knowledge at the appropriate levels, not asking students in first grade to understand the causes of World War One. However, first graders can learn about what wars are and what wars happened when. The subject knowledge is described precisely at each grade level with attention given to the links that will be formed as the student progresses.

Thus, in first grade, students learn about the states of matter and what an atom is. In fourth grade, protons, neutrons, and electrons are added, along with mass, volume, and density. Then, in fifth grade, students memorize the periodic table of elements. In middle school, students will study chemical bonds, reactions, and equations, along with additional background knowledge, such as famous chemists. As you can see, by the time the student reaches high school, they will have a solid foundation of progressively higher-order thinking.

Core Knowledge Balances Skills and Knowledge

Many curriculums expect students to problem-solve and build critical-thinking skills. These are exhibited by questions such as, “grouping a sequence of historical events,” or “identifying cause and effect relationships in history.” While most students can do this, the problem comes in when they don’t have the knowledge of the historical events to group them sequentially. Thus, students flounder because they are lacking this base knowledge, which is what Core Knowledge hopes to rectify.

Core Knowledge believes that you have to have the knowledge in order to make the skills effective and meaningful. Thus, in history for example, students are taught the facts, such as the founding of Pennsylvania by Quakers, the Civil Rights Movement, The Trail of Tears, and the right to vote. Then, teachers can guide their students into a much deeper understanding of history when they are asked about what cultural events shaped America. While Core Knowledge is not chronological, it is sequential, building on events that are widely known and easy to understand when students are younger, such as the Pilgrims, and then progressing through the American Revolution, the World Wars, and finally the Vietnam War.

Core Knowledge Focuses on Topics

Core Knowledge believes in studying topics and not in defining students’ knowledge through performance objectives. Core Knowledge emphasizes specifics that students know rather than academic skills. The difference lies in specifics. For example, in the language arts portion of the Core Knowledge curriculum, specific stories, poems, and fables are listed for each grade level. These are chosen based on the belief that every student should know classic literature so that they can converse about it. Examples include “The Grasshopper and the Ant,” “The Velveteen Rabbit,” and poems, such as “Chicago,” by Carl Sandburg. Specific short stories and novels are added as the children age, such as “Animal Farm,” and “The Good Earth.”

Core Knowledge believes that once a child has this base of knowledge, then it’s possible for processing skills to take over, such as summarizing the text and forming connections between historic events. The proponents of the Core Knowledge Curriculum believe that this knowledge base helps to develop and enhance proficiency in all other disciplines.

Core Knowledge Invites Local and Teacher Input

Core Knowledge is not a complete curriculum. It is only meant to be half of a curriculum. For example, Core Knowledge describes certain mathematical milestones that should be learned per grade, but it leaves the math curriculum up to the teachers. Core Knowledge provides a framework to teach from, but the teachers can fill in the details and truly make it their own. This enables other requirements to be fulfilled, such as teaching local government and other Common Core requirements and sequences.

The Core Knowledge curriculum is meant to aid teachers in knowledge acquisition by students. Basically, there is so much to teach, to learn, and to know that teachers can get lost in the details and miss out on overarching themes. Plus, standardizing what is taught will eliminate unnecessary repetition and glaring oversights. The framework that Core Knowledge provides is meant to help eliminate these gaps in knowledge as students progress throughout their school year, so by the end of eighth grade, all students will have the same base knowledge that they will need to be successful in high school, where higher-order thinking is the norm.

The Core Knowledge curriculum supports teachers in their quest to further their students’ education. It can take a little pressure off the teachers and aid in teacher lesson planning as well. The Core Knowledge sequence is easy to understand and easy to implement, and we believe the best in what students need to know by the time they finish the eighth grade.

Core Knowledge Equalizes Learning

The big picture idea of Core Knowledge is that it can replace fragmented and haphazard teaching with a solid base of knowledge that students need, rather than academic skills that are useless without something to talk about.

The Core Knowledge sequence has been developed and revised by hundreds of teachers and schools over many years into its current form. Now, teachers can follow this sequence as written, complete with activity ideas and resources that have been pooled together from other teachers. When students move, they can hop right into another Core Knowledge classroom and not be left behind. While teachers are still free to tailor the approach and the delivery of the curriculum, they have freedom to add in other course material that not only supports Core Knowledge, but also develops academic skills.


The great thing about living in America is that you have freedoms and choices. You can choose what career you want to go into, what hobbies you want to pursue, and what school your child attends. This aids parents in giving their children the education that they feel is most important in this world. Core Knowledge at its core is a detailed list of stories, events, art, music, science, and math principles that all students should know by the time they leave school in order to make them well-rounded human beings who can converse with others and have the same base.

New Vision Charter School in Loveland uses the Core Knowledge sequence to define what your student will learn in each grade level. All of our curriculum maps per grade level are laid out for you on our website. Core Knowledge meets the Colorado state standards in math, reading, writing, and science. Our history sequence follows the Core Knowledge sequence and does deviate from the Colorado state standards by grade level. However, by the end of eighth grade, your student will have met this state standard as well. We also meet the Common Core Standards.

New Vision Charter School is a leader in educating students in Northern Colorado. We are committed to the highest educational standards, as well as personal growth, for every student. Contact us today to learn more!