Curriculum FAQ

Curriculum FAQ

What does it mean to have a history emphasis?
History provides the framework of instruction, which means the content of other subjects are tied to history instruction. Historical time periods provide the background upon which to learn language arts, music, art, and science. Content within each subject directly relates to what is being studied in history. For example, fourth graders studying the Middle Ages will also read King Arthur and Robin Hood in language arts and learn about medieval art and music.

How much time will be spent teaching history at Jefferson Academy versus the standard public school curriculum?
Standard public schools generally spend anywhere from a couple of days a week to a few times a year on “social studies” instruction. Some schools do social studies every other day for approximately 30 minutes while others spend a certain amount of time during the year on projects related to social studies. Some schools switch time between studying science and studying social studies. It does not seem to be consistent across schools – or even grades for that matter.

At Jefferson Academy, students should receive history instruction daily for at least 20 minutes in the primary grades and 30-40 minutes in the upper elementary. Language arts, art, music, and science are often integrated with history, so the time could be considered more or less, depending on if you combine subjects.

What subject(s) receive less attention so that history can receive more time?
All academic subjects will receive the same level of instruction and importance at Jefferson Academy. While history is the curriculum framework, it will in no way take away from language arts, mathematics, or science. We value each as essential parts of a first-rate education. History will not receive more time than other subjects, but rather it will aid in integration of subjects. Some literature read in language arts will tie into historical periods being taught. Students will study scientists and/or inventions of the time period. Art and music will also reveal connections to what is being studied in history.

What about learning history makes it the appropriate subject to emphasize above all others?
History naturally encompasses all other subjects and provides an easy integration of them all. If subjects can be connected, students will find more meaning and relevance in what they are learning. We also believe the study of history prepares students to be more active and knowledgeable citizens.

How does the “core knowledge” approach differ from the standard public school curriculum?
Core Knowledge is an organization of content to be taught at each grade level. It differs from the standard core taught in most public schools in that it is specific, sequenced, and shared. It also differs in philosophy. Core Knowledge is a modern example of classical education, one that values the humanities and developing the intellect over student-centered, inquiry-based, “experiential” approaches of most public schools.

Is the notion of solid, sequenced, specific, and shared knowledge acquisition really unique to this approach?
The short answer is “yes.” The State’s Core Curriculum is skill-based rather than content-based. Core Knowledge explicitly lays out what content a child should know at each grade and that content is connected and repeated across grades. The State Core lays out concepts and skills a child should learn at each grade level. No content is connected across grades or repeated. Solid refers to a lasting body of knowledge that we believe should be passed down from one generation to the next. Most public schools cater to changing relevance. Sequenced refers to building on what one already knows. This is common sense. However, as an example, the State’s Core doesn’t have students learning United States history until 5th grade. They enter having no preparation or background knowledge on which to build an understanding. In Core Knowledge, students have a foundation from earlier studies of the Colonies, American Revolution, and the Civil War from grades 1 through 4. Specific refers to content that is explicitly stated.

Much of the State’s Core Standards state something to the effect of “students will understand how the exploration and colonization of North America transformed human history”. It mentions advances in technology, explorers, reasons for exploration, and contributions, but nothing specific. Which explorers? What advances? What contributions? Depending on the knowledge and interest of the teacher, one student may get a great depth of knowledge and understanding, while another may only get a brief overview. Because it is so specific in what content is to be taught, Core Knowledge levels the playing field for all students. Share refers to a broad range of knowledge taken for granted by speakers and writers. All children, regardless of their background, should have access to the same knowledge bank so they can participate more fully in society.

How much coordination is there among grade levels in district schools in terms of course content?
There is little, if any, coordination from one grade to another with regard to content. Unless a teacher were to check the State’s Core Curriculum Standards, he or she would likely not know what was taught at any other grade.

How much is dictated versus left up to teacher discretion in the Jefferson Academy’s curriculum? (For example, do English teachers select which books their students will read?)
For the most part, the curriculum is specifically laid out at each grade level, including books that will be read. Teachers will be able to provide some input in working with the school’s curriculum specialist to include additional material. The intent is for the curriculum to support the mission of the school and the Core Knowledge Sequence and avoid repetitions and gaps in knowledge.

How can the charter school offer smaller class sizes, higher teacher pay, and classroom aides, if money-per-student is identical to that received by non-charter public schools?
Charter schools actually receive less money-per-student than other public schools. That being the case, they have to be very wise and creative with the money they do receive. One reason they are able to provide certain services is because they don’t have the overhead of other public schools. Charter schools are run by a board that does not receive pay.

While parents would like a voice in the school, how will the school keep the parents from getting too involved and “running the school” ?
Parents will have a voice through feedback and input to the parent organization, as well as being able to volunteer and participate in a variety of in-class and out of class functions, but the Board is responsible to the State and will make all decisions regarding the school.