“Why Knowledge Counts More Than Skill”

Our blog post title above is in quotation marks because it is quoted from an article by Doug Lemov (author of Teach Like a Champion). Lemov offers guidance to teachers asked to incorporate more nonfiction in their reading instruction. He notes that “many language arts teachers approach nonfiction structurally” and focus students’ attention on “how information is presented.” But, says Lemov, “how information is presented” is less important than what students know, since the text assumes (as all texts do) prior background knowledge.

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Knowledge Needs Champions

Harriet Tubman will grace the front of our $20 bill—a long overdue tribute to a woman who lived up to the best of American values. But do most Americans know who she was? Anecdotal evidence and test scores indicate that they don’t.

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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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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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Kids Love Knowing Stuff

By Karin Chenoweth Karin Chenoweth, writer-in-residence at The Education Trust, is the author of numerous articles and three books on schools that are succeeding with significant populations of children of color and children living in poverty. This article originally appeared on the Huffington Post, to which she is a regular contributor. A commonplace idea floating…

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