“Why Knowledge Counts More Than Skill”

Our blog post title above is in quotation marks because it is quoted from an article hot off the online press. Here are three quotations from that article: To help students master nonfiction reading, we must design instruction that builds their background knowledge. Prior knowledge affects comprehension—in many cases, far more than generic “reading skills”…

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Knowledge Needs Champions

By Lisa Hansel Lisa Hansel is director of Knowledge Matters, a new campaign to restore wonder and excitement to the classroom by building broad knowledge in science, social studies, and the arts. Previously, she was the communications director for Core Knowledge and the editor of American Educator, the magazine of education research and ideas published by…

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Differentiation’s Dirty Little Secret

I’ve been visiting a lot of elementary schools lately, and I’ve noticed a dangerous pattern: instruction that’s called “differentiated” but looks an awful lot like tracking. To varying degrees, I’ve seen it in high- and low-scoring schools, some using Core Knowledge, some not. Here’s a typical scenario (abstracted from my admittedly limited experience). The whole…

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Writing for Understanding

Back in 2003, Sam Wineburg, a history professor at Stanford, published a little essay (or quick rant) titled “Power Pointless.” I can’t find it online now, but it amounted to a plea to have students write papers instead of merely creating presentations. Bullet points can hide incomplete understandings; essays tend to reveal them. Wineburg’s piece…

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AP Hunger Games

By Brooke Haycock Brooke Haycock, senior playwright-researcher with The Education Trust, primarily develops and performs docudramas based on interviews with students and educators to deepen understanding of educational data and the equity debate. This post was originally published as part of Ed Trust’s Between the Echoes blog series, which offers glimpses of students’ experiences. As Ed Trust notes, “All stories…

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This Is Not Your Father’s Geography

Missouri: Jefferson City, Corn. Kansas: Topeka, Corn. States, capitals, crops. That’s pretty much what my geography education consisted of. I didn’t even see a topographic map until I was in college—a boyfriend took me hiking. It was as an adult, reading Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies, that I realized…

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Help Wanted: Smartphone and Grit Required, Knowledge Optional

Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve never seen a position description for a good job that didn’t have a long list of knowledge, skill, and character requirements. It makes me wonder why those focused on “21st century” careers seem to place skills and character—or problem solving, team work, and perseverance—far above knowledge. David Brooks provides…

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Is Your School Increasing the Achievement Gap?

I have a very simple proposition: The more we teach, the more students learn—but some students get taught more than others. There’s plenty of evidence to back me up, so I’ll just go with the most recent study I’ve seen that make this point. Bill Schmidt and his research team found that all around the…

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With “The Science of Learning,” These Deans Will Have an Impact

Twenty years ago, as a psychology major focused on learning and memory, I took a history of psychology course that included phrenology, Freud, Skinner, Piaget, and Vygotsky, among other ideas and theorists. A few years later, as a doctoral student in education policy, I took a child development class that claimed to be current and…

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Penguins, Pythons, and Text Sets

Pop quiz: What do the following texts have to do with each other? “What Happens When it Rains” “Shasta Dam” “Water Main Break in Downtown New York City” “Penguins: Up Close and Personal” “Pythons Invade the Florida Everglades” “Who Wants a Spiny Snack?” If you answered that they all have some connection to water, you’re…

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