Principals seek to expand Core Knowledge pilot program

The Core Knowledge pilot reading program in New York City for kindergarten has shown such striking results that nine out of ten participating principals have asked to expand it into first grade. According to a NYC DoE press release, “The progress of students in the ten participating schools was more than five times greater than the also-significant performance of students at ten peer schools with comparable student populations, and was reflected among students at all levels of literacy.”

I am not sure what is meant by “more than five times greater” and how this is measured, but in any case these children are now entering first grade with strong reading skills and much more.

The program, which consists of a phonics/decoding strand and a listening/learning strand, combines explicit decoding instruction with lessons and readings in literature, history, science, and other subjects. As students learn to read, they also build their knowledge, vocabulary, and listening skills. The Core Knowledge blog has some good commentary on the program and its results.

I hope it continues to grow, with the support of dedicated principals and teachers. As I commented on the CK blog, I am glad that it is not a citywide mandate. Why? Because when things are mandated on a large scale, they are often dumbed down, miscommunicated, or otherwise poorly conveyed. Sometimes the trivial aspects are elevated to the status of inviolable rules. Sometimes the unconvinced end up training the uninformed–or the dogmatic end up training the resistant. Sometimes teachers have good ideas that are not taken into account. It is harder to be thoughtful about a citywide mandate than about a pilot program.

I am confident, though, that if given the opportunity, it will expand. Teachers and principals will see what is happening and decide to adopt it too. Parents will ask for it. It does not surprise me that it is doing so well. As E. D. Hirsch has pointed out, the greater effects may be seen over the long term.


  1. I have been to two of the schools piloting the CK reading curriculum. Both schools have amazing principals who set very high expectations for their students, and both schools have a positive school culture that fosters student success. I’m sure they would be successful implementing any curriculum simply because they are well-run schools, but I am glad to hear of the success of this pilot; it’s very well-balanced.

    I agree that mandating the curriculum is not the greatest idea for the reasons you cite above, but I imagine that other strong school leaders will adopt it. CK is rich and dense; I’ve been very impressed by what I have seen.


  1. […] Jacobs likes the Core Knowledge curriculum, but doesn’t want it mandated […]

  2. […] recently read Joanne Jacobs’ blog about a reading program being piloted in New York City which, she said, is happily not a city-wide […]