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At Core Knowledge Academy, Important Subjects Enhanced

Hartford’s New Schools: Core Knowledge Academy

By JODIE MOZDZER | The Hartford Courant

January 26, 2009

Several Hartford schools have seen major changes under Superintendent Steven J. Adamowski's district reform plan: Some underperforming schools were shut down, new schools were created, and other schools have been restructured. This is the last in a series looking at schools that have undergone major changes this academic year.

Each day, Mona Lisa's mysterious eyes fall upon the students at the Core Knowledge Academy at Thirman L. Milner School.

The framed print of Leonardo da Vinci's famous portrait hangs near the first-floor stairwell, overlooking the main hallway in the school. It is among several works of art that Principal V. Tyrone Richardson has placed throughout the Vine Street building this year.

"I'm trying to transform the school into a gallery," Richardson said.

That's because recognizing famous artists and their works is considered "core knowledge." Under a redesign of the school, Milner now follows guidelines set by the Core Knowledge Foundation, a nonprofit education organization, on what students should learn at each grade level.

Under those guidelines, core knowledge includes idioms — such as "birds of a feather flock together" — and teaching students about famous authors, artists and musicians.

"It's rich in arts, rich in culture," Richardson said. "I like to equate it to the show, 'Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader.' "

The topics "spiral," or repeat, with greater depth taught in higher levels. So kindergartners might be introduced to Mayan culture, and then learn more about the subject when they are fifth-graders.

Teachers said students have always studied important subjects, but the Core Knowledge guidelines "enhance" them.

"It's not that it was lacking before," special education teacher Martha Donovan said. "[Now] there's purpose to their learning. It's not just to take a test."

For sixth-grader Tyrone Price, it means learning more vocabulary and reading more interesting stories in language arts class.

"We get to learn bigger words now," Price said.

Richardson said students are adapting well to the new curriculum, but said the main challenge is adding middle-school grades to the school. As part of the redesign, the school has expanded beyond sixth grade to include the seventh and eighth grades over the next two years.

Before the end of the year, Richardson said the school will host meetings with parents to hand out Core Knowledge materials so they can help students continue learning at home.

• The concept: The Core Knowledge Academy at Thirman L. Milner School uses guidelines from the Core Knowledge Foundation that outline what students should learn by the end of each grade. The guidelines include knowing what common phrases mean, and recognizing famous artwork. It also outlines which topics — such Mayan culture or the solar system — students should study in each grade. The school can pick what curriculum it uses to teach prescribed topics. • Grades: Pre-kindergarten through seventh grade, with eighth grade added next year. • Hours: 8 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. • Enrollment: 416 students

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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