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How School Choice Advances Curriculum Reform

(By Robert Pondiscio, excerpted from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute)

Teaching elementary school in a low-performing South Bronx elementary school convinced me that E.D. Hirsch, Jr.’s views on literacy are unimpeachably correct. His work described precisely what I saw every day in my fifth grade classroom: children whose lack of background knowledge and vocabulary contributed disproportionately to their reading comprehension struggles.

I was so electrified by Hirsch’s insights, which no one in my district or grad school seemed aware of or much interested in, that I resolved to work for Hirsch’s Core Knowledge Foundation and to spread his essential ideas. It was the missing piece in my teacher training and what students like mine most needed and were least likely to get.

Roughly 40 percent of all Core Knowledge schools in the U.S. are traditional public schools; another 40 percent are charter schools. (The rest are private schools; “CK” is also popular among homeschoolers.) Given that a mere 7 percent of all schools are charters, this means charter schools are far more likely to adopt Core Knowledge than traditional district schools. A strong majority of all Core Knowledge schools—charter and private—are schools of choice…

These schools and many others are a proof point that school choice is neither beside the point nor even a distraction from the critical evangelical work of convincing educators that all children, and particularly disadvantaged learners, benefit from access to rich, curricular content. Indeed, if more low-income families had true school choice—with dollars attached—it would likely be a boon to the network of Catholic Partnership Schools led by Kathleen Porter-Magee, another long-time advocate of knowledge-rich education for disadvantaged children…

Read the full article here