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For One School,
Core Knowledge
Makes the Difference

For P.S./M.S. 124, Osmond A. Church School in Queens, New York, introducing the Core Knowledge program improved achievement, parent participation, and cooperation among teachers. Included: Information about the Core Knowledge program.

Courtesy of The Achievement Alliance

After seventh graders at P.S./M.S. 124, Osmond A. Church School in Queens, New York, finished reading William Shakespeares A Midsummer Nights Dream, many students found themselves wondering whether Shakespeare hated women.

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In order to form opinions, they asked their teacher if they could read more of Shakespeares plays. In the end, some thought yes and some thought no, and the class spent a lot longer on the Shakespeare unit than had been planned.

This is just one example of the level of student achievement at a school that periodically absorbs waves of children from homeless shelters and 90 percent of the students qualify for free-or reduced-price lunches.

Osmond Church posts higher proficiency rates than the state as a whole and much higher than New York City. But it wasnt always that way. The turn-around began in 1999 when the school received a reform grant and then-principal Elain Thompson and assistant principal (now principal) Valarie Lewis asked teachers to adopt the Core Knowledge program.

Developed by author and scholar E. D. Hirsch, Core Knowledge stresses giving students a foundation in world history, geography, civics, literature, science, art, and music in order for them to become educated, responsible citizens. (When the school first adopted Core Knowledge, staff members included more information about Africa, Latin America, and Asia.)

Everyone in the school trained together, and soon another grant came along to continue the training. Now the grants have run out, but teachers still come in for the summer institute the school holds to deepen their content knowledge.

To help get parents involved in their childrens learning, every six weeks the school holds a Saturday workshop where parents learn about the science curriculum and about the tests for which their children are preparing. The school also has worked hard to incorporate the different cultures represented by the families of students. Over the last few years, Osmond Church has seen a large influx of families from India and Pakistan.

Former principal Thompson told the Achievement Alliance, I give [Core Knowledge] credit for equalizing the education for all the children in this building.

SOURCE: The Achievement Alliance

To read the full story, see Its Being Done: P.S./M.S. 124, Osmond A. Church School, New York City, New York