Friday, July 22, 2016

Why Knowledge Matters

| by Cory Curl |

Reading comprehension has a lot to do with students’ knowledge and vocabulary.

To build a foundation for reading comprehension for all future learning, students need exposure to a well-rounded curriculum including science, social studies, arts, music, and other subjects beginning in early elementary school. Susan Weston has shared this point several times here at PrichBlog.

Fortunately, Kentucky’s education community has understood this for a long time. Both policy and practice have emphasized a well-rounded curriculum, and we have the results to suggest that this is the right track.

Science is a case in point. As Lisa Hansel of the Knowledge Matters campaign pointed out in a webinar that we hosted last evening, Kentucky ranked 4th in the nation on the 2009 4th grade NAEP science test. That year, Kentucky elementary schools had the highest amount of instructional time devoted to science (see this paper by Dr. Rolf Blank).

Lisa also suggested that this commitment to building knowledge in the early grades contributes to Kentucky’s strong showing in NAEP reading, where Kentucky 4th grade students score in the top 10 in the nation.

The webinar also featured Robert Pondiscio of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, who went into lively detail about why knowledge matters for reading comprehension, as well as why attention to this connection is important for equity for all students. Lisa provided five concrete recommendations of how states can incentivize a well-rounded approach in the early grades. You can learn more about the research and recommendations in this issue brief.

We had a great discussion about how parents can advocate for a knowledge-rich curriculum. Lisa and Robert also shared stories to illustrate why an emphasis on building knowledge provides an opportunity for engaging and active classroom learning rather than rote memorization.

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) provides some policy spark for states to incentivize a well-rounded education, an opportunity that Secretary of Education John King underscored in recent remarks. As always, we encourage you to be involved in Kentucky’s efforts to redesign its accountability system and otherwise take advantage of opportunities provided in the new law.

We welcome your suggestions on how can help keep you informed and engaged through the process.

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