Liberty Common School is a Core Knowledge School of Distinction. Their community has embraced an incredibly collaborative and domain-based approach to teaching the knowledge and skills necessary for success later in life.
After extensive observations, interviews, and surveys, we are honored to note Liberty Common School as a Core Knowledge School of Distinction. This is due to the following qualities:
- A culture of collaboration and support among teachers and staff
- A dedication to ensuring that no student is left behind
About Liberty Common School
Liberty Common is a K-12 charter school in Fort Collins, Colorado, including an elementary school campus and a high school campus. The school’s mission is to provide excellence and fairness in education through a common foundation. Strong staff, student, parent, and community involvement focus on robust academic enrichment to support students’ success through college and later in life.
Liberty Common School and Core Knowledge Foundation
Liberty Common School has been using the Core Knowledge approach since 1997 and was the second school to achieve our School of Distinction status. They use the Core Knowledge Sequence to ensure a cumulative, coherent and content-specific foundation of knowledge from Kindergarten all the way through eighth grade. Liberty Common School puts the Core Knowledge curriculum to good use, adopting History and Geography, Music and Visual Arts. This has enabled them to seamlessly connect and build upon content across subjects and grade levels.
Liberty Common Elementary School’s adoption of Core Knowledge is steered by the school’s principal, Keith (Casey) Churchill, a Core Knowledge Licenced Professional. Before he managed the administrative and curriculum planning side of things, Churchill taught Core Knowledge in the classroom for 12 years.
“It is important to note that Liberty has made a conscious decision to stay true to the curriculum and not waiver with the increase of state testing and the pressure put on us as a school. We feel that teaching the CK curriculum with fidelity will make our students better readers and in turn smarter. Our students do incredibly well on our state mandated standardized test for not changing what we teach and teaching to the test. We commend our teachers for their hard work intervening early with struggling students and teaching the Core Knowledge Curriculum with fidelity.”Casey Churchill, Principal at Liberty Common Elementary School
Learning as a Community
While the students dig into literary classics, Liberty Common School staff has a reading list as well. Teachers and administrators select and read books together to deepen their pedagogical and content knowledge, and then implement what they’ve learned in the classroom. Liberty Common staff have a special appreciation of E.D. Hirsch, Jr., the founder of Core Knowledge Foundation. They’ve all read both Cultural Literacy and The Schools We Need, among other titles.
Collaboration and Support Among Teachers
Planning together is important for teachers and administrators at Liberty Common School. The school schedule contains two, 45-minute planning periods for teams each week, in addition to larger quarterly meetings. Teachers are encouraged to collaborate on lesson alignment and consider where they might take advantage of common objectives, common questioning strategies, common assessments (informal to formal), and common criteria for success when scoring student work.
They work to continuously refine curriculum within and across grades in order to build on content taught previously rather than repeat it. Teachers meet both by content area (for example, history) and by domain (such as the American Revolution).
Peer Teaching Observations
Liberty Common believes that having teachers observe each other is a powerful and easy way for them to grow and share expertise. Teachers report that the peer observations give them ideas for their own practice and spark collaboration around specific domains.
All teachers have three or four peer observations per year. However, the approach and goal behind observations may shift from year to year. For example, last year, with an influx of new teachers, the more seasoned staff stepped in to observe and offer support. This year, while continuing to support new teachers, they’ve added a focus on observations between teammates, observing the same lesson so they can see differences and similarities. The teams will then conduct a unit analysis to discuss changes and improvements that can be made within the unit itself and its instruction.
No Student Is Left Behind
Aside from improving instruction and forming connections across subjects and grades, teacher collaboration is also imperative to student success. To ensure that all students can achieve success with the rigorous curriculum, grade-level teacher teams collaborate to discuss ways to support students new to Core Knowledge and those with gaps in their learning.
In one team meeting, teachers share how they work together to develop supplementary lessons to fill knowledge gaps for students during the intervention time built into the school’s schedule. Teachers use specially designed assessments that allow them to see where the gaps are, create small groups for targeted instruction, and, as needed, refer individual students for additional intervention help.
“As a high performing school, we feel it is essential to provide students that struggle with the skills taught or the Core Knowledge Curriculum with support. We have seen high growth of our struggling students due to the problem-solving meetings with staff as well as a systematic way of identifying struggling students and providing them with needed help early on. Our robust Academic Support Team attends these problem-solving meetings to provide needed answers to teacher questions as well as intervention support. Other teachers in the room will add their experiences to the conversation that many times will solve issues with students.”Casey Churchill, Principal at Liberty Common Elementary School
Visit Liberty Common School
To learn techniques and processes for implementing the Core Knowledge approach at your school, consider a visit to Liberty Common School. Check out their Facebook page and the Liberty Common School website to learn more and plan your visit.