Core Knowledge is an educational reform movement based on the premise that a grade-by-grade core of common learning is necessary to ensure a sound and fair elementary education. Based on a body of research in cognitive psychology and school systems operating worldwide, Core Knowledge posits that, in order to attain academic excellence, greater fairness, and higher literacy, early education curriculum should be solid, specific, shared, and sequenced. By teaching a body of specific, lasting knowledge in a way that allows children to succeed by gradually building on what they already know, the Core Knowledge mission is to provide all children, regardless of background, with the shared knowledge they need to be included in our national literate culture.
The Core Knowledge Curriculum begins in preschool and continues through eighth grade. A group that decides what is important for students to learn in able to consider them culturally literate and then forms the curriculum around those ideas.
The three goals of implementation of the Core Knowledge Curriculum are to teach all of the topics included in the Core Knowledge Sequence, to teach the topics at the grade levels assigned by the Sequence, and to teach the topics to all students whenever possible.
Implementation of the Core Knowledge Curriculum and the process required necessitates cooperation between teachers, administrators, and parents. Implementation often occurs over a two- to three-year period, with schools phasing in topics subject-by-subject or adding additional grade levels each year.
There are three levels of Core Knowledge schools based on the level of implementation and excellence achieved by the school—Friends of Core Knowledge, Official Core Knowledge Schools, and Official Core Knowledge Visitation Sites. Friends of Core Knowledge are schools implementing Core Knowledge at any level, beginning on the first day of implementation. Official Core Knowledge Schools implement 80% or more of the Core Knowledge Sequence and have an eventual goal of 100% implementation. They submit curriculum plans, alignment with state standards, and sample lessons for review by the Foundation. Official Core Knowledge Visitation Sites are schools visited by representatives of the Foundation deemed to be model schools for Core Knowledge implementation.
As of April 2006, Core Knowledge schools were 44% public, 35% charter, 15% private, and 6% parochial. Additionally, they were 39% urban, 39% suburban, and 22% rural.