- Language Arts
- Social Studies
- Core Knowledge
- Flipped Classroom
- Curriculum Nights
K-5: Reading Mastery Signature Edition, McGraw Hill
6-8: Read to Achieve, McGraw Hill
Supplemental: Corrective Reading, McGraw Hill
Flex Literacy, McGraw Hill
These series are aligned both with the Core Knowledge Sequence and with the pedagogy of Direct Instruction, making them uniquely effective with diverse student bodies.
Direct Instruction (DI) is a model for teaching that emphasizes well-developed and carefully planned lessons designed around small learning increments and clearly defined and prescribed teaching tasks. It is based on the theory that clear instruction eliminating misinterpretations can greatly improve and accelerate learning. Vision Academy Charter School will employ the use of Direct Instruction, which complements the road map for learning provided by the Core Knowledge Sequence.
Key to the success of Direct Instruction is achieving full school, full immersion implementation. The two tenets of Direct Instruction, acceleration and accountability will help administrators and teachers better understand their responsibilities school-wide and in the classroom.
In order to achieve acceleration, curriculum is carefully planned based on scaffolding for future grades. The scope and sequence presented in this application is aligned to this scaffolding. The Director of Instruction will require that each grade level teaching team and individual teachers present in early Fall a month-to-month (or quarterly, depending upon grade level and subject area) lesson plan for the year for review, thus ensuring that each individual teacher’s lessons align with the Core Knowledge Sequence and deliver in an efficient manner the content students need for sustained academic success.
The second key component is accountability. Vision Academy founders recognize that good intentions do not equal results. Staff will be held accountable for identifying and solving problems that prevent acceleration of student performance. To reach this level of accountability, the system must have data—both on the performance of every student and on the performance of every teacher. Vision Academy will use a variety of standardized formative and summative assessments to monitor performance. Student assessment will be gauged by classroom assignments, portfolios, content assessments, and projects as well as PSSA testing, DIBELS (at younger grades), and Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) testing (at higher grades). Testing is one of the tools that teachers will utilize to calibrate their effectiveness in helping students master the content. Teachers will be expected to understand how to use data to improve outcomes and will participate in weekly Professional Learning Communities, where teachers will assess their own and their peers’ performance in a collegial environment and work toward systemic improvement of school performance.
K-2: Language for Learning, McGraw Hill
1-3: Language for Thinking, McGraw Hill
2-5: Language for Writing, McGraw Hill
6-8: Essentials for Writing, McGraw Hill
These series are aligned both with the Core Knowledge Sequence and with the pedagogy of Direct Instruction, making them uniquely effective with diverse student bodies.
K-8: Singapore Math
Recognized for its capacity to support achievement in all students by Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study results and studies by American Institutes for Research, Singapore Math uses an explicit format aligned to the Core Knowledge Sequence that fosters mastery of mathematic concepts.
What’s Singapore Math?
By Laura Lewis Brown
Child working on a math problemParents in the United States often hear (and stress about) how students in other countries perform better than our children in math and science. With that in mind, many schools and homeschoolers are implementing an approach to teaching elementary math that is common practice in Singapore.
Singapore math, which refers to the teaching methods or the actual curriculum used for kindergarten through sixth grade in the small island country, has become popular due to Singapore’s consistent top ranking on an international assessment of student math achievement called the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS). In the latest TIMSS report in 2007, Singapore was ranked in the top three in fourth- and eighth-grade math scores, while the United States ranked ninth and eleventh, respectively.
Mastery, Not Memorization
Supporters of Singapore math credit the Singaporean methods of instruction and curriculum for its students’ success. While American math instruction often relies on drilling and memorization of many skills each year, Singapore math focuses on children not just learning but also truly mastering a limited number of concepts each school year. The goal is for children to perform well because they understand the material on a deeper level; they are not just learning it for the test.
“The sequence of topics in Singapore math has been carefully constructed based upon child development theory,” says Jeffery Thomas, president of Singapore Math Inc., the primary producer of Singapore math products for the U.S. market. “The means to mastery is problem solving, and the beauty of the approach is that the majority of students are well prepared to tackle increasingly difficult topics, such as fractions and ratio, when they are introduced in the third through fifth grades. Those students are also then typically ready for algebra and geometry in middle school.”
Students in the same classroom may learn the concepts at different paces, but ultimately they all learn them and help develop their own solid foundation for further math learning. This prevents the need for reteaching as students move to the next grade.
Thomas and his wife, Dawn, a native Singaporean, helped bring Singapore math to the United States in the late 1990s by adapting Singaporean textbooks and workbooks for the U.S. market through their company. Now Singapore math is part of the core curriculum at schools in 40 states, Thomas says. Many schools have adopted Singapore math as their core, others have brought it in gradually, and still others are using it for gifted and talented students, or for struggling students.
What Type of Students Benefit from Singapore Math?
There is no guarantee that the Singapore method will make your child a math whiz, but teachers who use it believe it can help any child. “Most any child would benefit from this program,” explains Kevin Mahoney, a math curriculum coordinator at a private school in Massachusetts, who also maintains www.singaporemathmentor.com. “That’s because of its reliance on understanding number sense, problem solving and conceptual understanding of what these kids are doing. Singapore math requires children to understand how something works, like long division. But they’re also going to understand why long division works, not just the how but the why.”
Singapore math also relies heavily on visualization, which is often neglected in the American classroom. “In typical American math teaching, you use a concrete-abstract approach. If I’m going to teach about multiplication I will bring out physical objects and demonstrate how to multiply, then move to the abstraction of lining up numbers in a multiplication equation,” Mahoney says. Singapore, on the other hand, introduces a middle step between the concrete and abstract called the pictorial approach. “It asks students and teachers to draw a diagram of the concepts going on. This is not an idea that’s exclusive to Singapore, but it’s so well expressed in a coherent idea in the curriculum in a comprehensive way,” he says.
Students also learn to use model drawing to solve those word problems that many of us remember fondly from elementary school. Instead of trying to picture the problem in their heads, then writing out the equation to solve it, students in Singapore math diagram the elements of the word problem. “Model drawing is really exciting to Americans because they’ve seen never anything like it,” Mahoney says. “It gives American teachers a tool to help students decode those sticky word problems.”
Since Singapore math was added to the core curriculum at Pennacre Country Day School, an independent K-6 school in Wellesley, Mass., there has been a noticeable change in student performance. Mahoney says a recent assessment found 20-percentile gains in standardized testing of third graders compared to previous third-grade classes. The school also determined that 89 percent of parents said their children had a very positive experience with Singapore math, and were more competent in problem solving and arithmetic thinking.
In Hawaii, students and teachers at Shafter Elementary are also taking to Singapore math in a big way. “The students just grab onto it because it makes sense to them,” says Robin Martin, principal of the Honolulu school that is using Singapore math in its K-6 curriculum. “I don’t exaggerate: every day a teacher was coming into my office and saying, ‘Oh my god, the kids are getting this.’ The kids are just so excited about it. When the teachers see the kids excited, the teachers really put effort into it. They see that it’s really having an impact.”
A Parent’s Role in Singapore Math
Singapore math instructors encourage parents to be open-minded. Singapore math is not what most parents in the United States studied in school, but that doesn’t mean they need to resist it. While you may want to help your child learn the times table the way you did, you should also consider this different approach.
“Many parents want to tell their children not to do a math problem this way, or they discourage, saying there is an easier way,” Martin says. “Part of Singapore math is children making meaning of the math. Just because the parents understand it one way doesn’t mean the children won’t another.”
Char Forsten, a consultant and writer who helps schools implement Singapore math, explains, “When I was in school, the emphasis was on getting the correct answer; here it’s about understanding the math and explaining your answer. That’s a big thing that parents need to understand.” We may want our children to get the right answer, but we also want them to know why it is the right answer.
Even though Singapore math may seem strange to you, you can still help your child access it. If your child is not learning Singapore math in school, you can purchase materials on your own. Singaporemath.com offers a placement test to determine where your child may be in the curriculum, so you can select the right textbook and workbook combination.
Be aware, however, that although doing practice problems is helpful, it cannot replace learning in the classroom. “Just looking at textbooks themselves can be misleading. The textbooks don’t include all the rich teaching and dialogue that go on in a Singapore math classroom,” Mahoney says. “To an untrained eye they look simple, but the math involved is really quite deep, and that really gets drawn out in the Singapore math classroom.”
Regardless of your child’s relationship with Singapore math now or in the future, your goal should be to support and encourage the style of math learning that works for them. “The parent is the supporter. The parent is the guide in asking questions,” Forsten says. “I believe the best thing they can do is question their children. Questioning children is an excellent way to develop their thinking.” So when your daughter or son comes home with a math problem that you don’t understand, simply ask what they know about it, what they were taught in school, and so on.
A parent should also be open to playing games that rely on math skills and pointing out math in the environment, such as asking what shape the kitchen cabinets are and other real-life math questions.
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Amplify- Core Knowledge
Full Option Science System, Delta Education
FOSS is a research-based science curriculum for grades K–8 developed at the Lawrence Hall of Science, University of California at Berkeley. FOSS is also an ongoing research project dedicated to improving the learning and teaching of science. The FOSS program materials are designed to meet the challenge of providing meaningful science education for all students in diverse American classrooms and to prepare them for life in the 21st century.
K-6: Timelinks, McGraw Hill
6-8: Journey Series, McGraw Hill
Both series are aligned to the Core Knowledge Sequence
What is the Core Knowledge Sequence?
Coherent, Cumulative, and Content-Specific Curriculum
The idea behind the Core Knowledge Sequence is simple and powerful: knowledge builds on knowledge. For the sake of academic excellence, greater fairness, and higher literacy, Core Knowledge provides a core curriculum that is coherent, cumulative, and content-specific in order to help children establish strong foundations of knowledge, grade by grade.
If all of our children are to be fully educated and participate equally in civic life, then we must provide each of them with the shared body of knowledge that makes literacy and communication possible. This concept, central to the Core Knowledge Foundation’s goal of excellence and equity in education, takes shape in the Sequence—a pioneering attempt to outline the specific core of shared knowledge that all children should learn in American schools.
The Core Knowledge Sequence and the Core Knowledge Preschool Sequence and Teacher Handbook are detailed outlines of specific content (and skills) taught in English/language arts, history, geography, mathematics, science, and the fine arts.
All the most successful educational systems in the world teach a common body of knowledge in the early grades. They do this because as both research and common sense demonstrate, we learn new knowledge by building on what we already know. It is important to begin building foundations of knowledge in the early grades because that is when children are most receptive, and because academic deficiencies in the first six grades can permanently impair the quality of later schooling.
Only by specifying the knowledge children should share can we guarantee equal access to that knowledge. In our current system, disadvantaged children especially suffer from low expectations that translate into watered down curricula. In schools using the Core Knowledge Sequence, however, disadvantaged children, like all children, are exposed to a coherent core of challenging, interesting knowledge. This knowledge not only provides a strong foundation for later learning, but makes up common ground for communication in a diverse society.
Children create understanding by building on what they already know. They learn best when they are offered an engaging, challenging, and content-rich curriculum that builds and grows from year to year. As the heart of a school’s curriculum, the Sequence provides a solid foundation for literacy and learning that promotes academic excellence for all learners, while remaining flexible enough to meet state and local standards. The Sequence is not a list of facts, events, and dates to be memorized. It is a guide to content from grade to grade, designed to encourage steady academic growth and progress as children construct their knowledge and develop literacy and critical thinking skills year after year.
Strong Foundations of Knowledge, Grade by Grade
The result of a lengthy process of research and consensus-building by the Core Knowledge Foundation, the Sequence is distinguished by its breadth and specificity. While most state or district standards and curricula provide general guidelines concerning skills students should obtain and master, they typically offer little help in deciding specific content. The specific content in the Sequence provides a solid foundation on which to build skills instruction. Moreover, because the Sequence builds knowledge systematically year by year, it helps prevent repetition and gaps in instruction that can result from vague curricular guidelines (for example, repeated units on “Pioneer Days” or “Saving the Rain Forest;” or inadequate attention to the Bill of Rights, or to the geography of Africa; etc.).
Finally, the founders believe that students today encounter dissonance between the current preparation in elementary and middle schools toward independent learning and the expectations of the high school setting. In the The Learning Gap, Stevenson and Stigler (1992) suggest that one of the greatest challenges facing teachers is students lacking the necessary grade appropriate skills or knowledge. Students frequently have limited experiences in developing autonomy in learning and often fail to understand the information they lack in order to attain higher levels of learning. The result can be students entering a higher grade with limited ability to fully access academic programming.
To that end, Vision Academy Charter School will employ a “Flipped Classroom” model that will call upon teachers to develop direct instruction lectures that will serve as homework for students, while classroom time will be devoted to what may have been traditionally homework (such as working on math problems independently) and active learning such as lab work, project work, or other active learning efforts. The flipped classroom requires students to become active learners. After watching the flipped presentation, students will need to use their critical thinking skills to develop their own questions and theories related to content. The flipped classroom encourages students toward greater autonomy in learning and helps them develop the skills of inquiry learning that are necessary for success in high school, college and career.
Bergman and Sams, 2012, widely considered the leaders in flipped classroom systems, state:
“One of the greatest benefits of flipping is that overall interaction increases: Teacher to student and student to student. Since the role of the teacher has changed from presenter of content to learning coach, we spend our time talking to kids. We are answering questions, working with small groups, and guiding the learning of each student individually.”
Because of the small school size, this method of delivery will accelerate learning for students and will provide the foundation for students to become their own advocates in learning.
Vision Academy will employ the flipped classroom at upper grades (6-8) and will ease students into the effort gradually, either with only a single class or with portions of a class. While the flipped classroom is still relatively new, substantial research related to cognition and media demonstrate its value:
“Overall, fifty years of educational research indicates that media and technology are effective in schools as phenomena to learn both from and with. Historically, the learning from or tutorial approaches have received the most attention and funding, but the with or cognitive tool approaches are the focus of more interest and investment than ever before. Media and technology have many other advantages in terms of repeatability, transportability, and increased equity of access.” (Reeves, 1998)
Critical to the delivery of the Core Knowledge Sequence is the school’s regularly scheduled “Curriculum Night” that will support student synthesis of content and will provide an avenue for student projects to be presented to family, faculty, and friends. Curriculum Night may be a single grade, a coordination of grades touching similar subjects, or grade clusters. It is designed to allow the school community to share what is taking place and to also enhance individual student’s ability to explore ideas independently, create solutions, and present publicly on their ideas.
Curriculum Nights will be based on students’ experiences in Project Based Learning. Project Based Learning as a vehicle for Curriculum Night becomes a valuable tool in developing individual talents and interests and demonstrating knowledge beyond rote. At early grades, students will be guided by teachers in delivering their projects. As students mature, they will be given greater responsibility and teachers will become guides in projects rather than directors. The depth of content in Core Knowledge opens a wealth of opportunities to develop projects and to use acquired knowledge of the past and present to solve problems of the future.
A June 2009 literature review from the Center of Excellence in Leadership of Learning (CELL) at University of Indianapolis concluded that Project Based Learning has a positive effect on student content knowledge and the development of skills such as collaboration, critical thinking, and problem solving as well as increasing student motivation and engagement (Brush & Saye, 2008; Krajcik, et al., 1998)