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What Your Sixth Grader Needs to Know

Cover of What Your Sixth Grader Needs to Know

What Your Sixth Grader Needs to Know

Fundamentals of a Good Sixth-Grade Education, Revised Edition
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Grade by grade, these groundbreaking and successful books provide a solid foundation in the fundamentals of a good education for first to sixth graders.

B & W photographs, linecuts, and maps throughout; two-color printing.

Grade by grade, these groundbreaking and successful books provide a solid foundation in the fundamentals of a good education for first to sixth graders.

B & W photographs, linecuts, and maps throughout; two-color printing.

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  • From the book General Introduction to the Core Knowledge Series


    I. WHAT IS YOUR CHILD LEARNING IN SCHOOL?


    A parent of identical twins sent me a letter in which she expressed concern that her children, who are in the same grade in the same school, are being taught completely different things. How can this be? Because they are in different classrooms; because the teachers in these classrooms have only the vaguest guidelines to follow; in short, because the school, like many in the United States, lacks a definite, specific curriculum.

    Many parents would be surprised if they were to examine the curriculum of their child's elementary school. Ask to see your school's curriculum. Does it spell out, in clear and concrete terms, a core of specific content and skills all children at a particular grade level are expected to learn by the end of the school year?

    Many curricula speak in general terms of vaguely defined skills, processes, and attitudes, often in an abstract, pseudo-technical language that calls, for example, for children to "analyze patterns and data," or "investigate the structure and dynamics of living systems," or "work cooperatively in a group." Such vagueness evades the central question: what is your child learning in school? It places unreasonable demands upon teachers and often results in years of schooling marred by repetitions and gaps. Yet another unit on dinosaurs or "pioneer days." Charlotte's Web for the third time. "You've never heard of the Bill of Rights?" "You've never been taught how to add two fractions with unlike denominators?"

    When identical twins in two classrooms of the same school have few academic experiences in common, that is cause for concern. When teachers in that school do not know what children in other classrooms are learning on the same grade level, much less in earlier and later grades, they cannot reliably predict that children will come prepared with a shared core of knowledge and skills. For an elementary school to be successful, teachers need a common vision of what they want their students to know and be able to do. They need to have clear, specific learning goals, as well as the sense of mutual accountability that comes from shared commitment to helping all children achieve those goals. Lacking both specific goals and mutual accountability, too many schools exist in a state of curricular incoherence, one result of which is that they fall far short of developing the full potential of our children.

    To address this problem, I started the nonprofit Core Knowledge Foundation in 1986. This book and its companion volumes in the Core Knowledge Series are designed to give parents, teachers—and through them, children—clearly defined learning goals in the form of a carefully sequenced body of knowledge, based upon the specific content guidelines developed by the Core Knowledge Foundation.

    Core Knowledge is an attempt to define, in a coherent and sequential way, a body of knowledge taken for granted by competent writers and speakers in the United States. Because this knowledge is taken for granted rather than explained when used, it forms a necessary foundation for the higher-order reading, writing, and thinking skills that children need for academic and vocational success. The universal attainment of such knowledge should be a central aim of curricula in our elementary schools, just as it is currently the aim in all world-class educational systems. For reasons explained in the next section, making sure that all young children in the United States possess a core of shared knowledge is a necessary step in developing a first-rate educational system....
About the Author-
  • E. D. Hirsch, Jr., is a professor of English at the University of Virginia and the author of The Schools We Need, The Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, and the bestselling Cultural Literacy. He lives in Charlottesville, Virginia.
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    Random House Publishing Group
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What Your Sixth Grader Needs to Know
What Your Sixth Grader Needs to Know
Fundamentals of a Good Sixth-Grade Education, Revised Edition
E.D. Hirsch, Jr.
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