Archives for category: Curriculum & Common Core Standards


  • Hope (Langston Hughes)
  • I Know All the Sounds the Animals Make (Jack Prelutsky)
  • My Shadow (Robert Louis Stevenson)
  • The Owl and the Pussycat (Edward Lear)
  • The Pasture (Robert Frost)
  • The Purple Cow (Gelett Burgess)
  • Rope Rhyme (Eloise Greenfield)
  • Sing a Song of People (Lois Lenski)
  • Solomon Grundy (traditional)
  • The Swing (Robert Louis Stevenson)
  • Table Manners [also known as “The Goops”] (Gelett Burgess)
  • Thanksgiving Day [“Over the river and through the wood”] (Lydia Maria Child)


  • The Boy at the Dike (folktale from Holland)
  • The Frog Prince
  • Hansel and Gretel
  • selections from The House at Pooh Corner (A. A.Milne)
  • How Anansi Got Stories from the Sky God (folktale from West Africa)
  • It Could Always Be Worse (Yiddish folktale)
  • Jack and the Beanstalk
  • The Knee-High Man (African-American folktale)
  • Medio Pollito (Hispanic folktale)
  • The Pied Piper of Hamelin
  • Pinocchio
  • The Princess and the Pea
  • Puss-in-Boots
  • Rapunzel
  • Rumpelstiltskin
  • Sleeping Beauty
  • The Tale of Peter Rabbit (Beatrix Potter)
  • Tales of Br’er Rabbit (recommended tales: Br’er Rabbit Gets Br’er Fox’s Dinner; Br’er Rabbit Tricks Br’er Bear; Br’er Rabbit and the Tar Baby)
  • Why the Owl Has Big Eyes (Native American legend)


  • The Boy Who Cried Wolf
  • The Dog in the Manger
  • The Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing
  • The Maid and the Milk Pail
  • The Fox and the Grapes
  • The Goose and the Golden Eggs

Teachers: To give students a sense that people all around the world tell certain stories that, while they differ in details, have much in common, introduce students to similar folktales from different lands, such as the following:
Lon Po Po (China) and Little Red Riding Hood
Issun Boshi, or One-Inch Boy (Japan); Tom Thumb (England); Thumbelina (by the Danish writer Hans Christian Andersen); Little Finger of the Watermelon Patch (Vietnam)
Some of the many variations on the Cinderella story (from Europe, Africa, China, Vietnam, Egypt, Korea, etc.)

Source: Core Knowledge | Grade 1 | Scope and sequence

Core Knowledge ELA (poems, stories, fables): Grade 1
Core Knowledge ELA (assigned reading & topics of study): Grade 8
The Brearley School’s English literature program, gr6-8 (part 1)

From a district veteran:

In the late 1960’s the public schools in this country threw out curricula probably due to the massive popular unrest caused by the Vietnam War. There were a lot of problems with the old curricula, but there were good things, too. In the early 1980s, there was unusual unanimity on the Irvington BOE that the Irvington schools needed more curricula. Bizarre as it may seem, each teacher was allowed to “do your own thing.” The older teachers generally retained content curricula. We had two very competent principals at the Middle School and the High School who were supporters of curricula. Dows Lane was a mess.

In those days the BOE each year came up with objectives for the District and each principal came up with his objectives for the year. The BOE wanted a review of a curriculum area each year and that became a District objective and an objective of the principals. A curriculum committee was established which included the department chair, some teachers and some community members. A timetable was set for a public presentation to the BOE. The BOE felt that this method kept the pressure on the schools to develop curricula. The principals at the MS and HS welcomed this because it gave them leverage with the faculty – they could say it was the BOE’s idea, not their idea. This schema didn’t always work and wasn’t implemented every year, but the BOE never lost sight of curricula development.

The constant pressure on curricula was very positive for the schools. It was understood by the BOE, the administration, and the faculty that curricula changes needed public BOE approval. Public presentations of the curriculum committee and of any proposed curricula changes were insisted upon. The faculty and administration welcomed the opportunity for public presentations. The BOE was not trying to second guess or dictate curricula and the faculty and administration knew that. The public presentations validated the curricula work done and were appreciated by the BOE and the public.

There was resistance, particularly at Dows Lane. The Science Dept made overtures to Dows Lane teachers to give them assistance developing science education at DL and were repeatedly rebuffed. There also was constant pressure from Albany to teach “skills” which usually resulted in forcing the loss of content.

It seems to be necessary for the BOE to keep the pressure on the administration and the faculty. Possibly with all the construction over the years, the BOE lost sight of its curricula responsibilities because of the need to oversee the construction. If curricula are going to get developed or improved, it has to be done with public involvement and participation of the whole school community which includes the BOE. The faculty and administration have to do the work on curricula, but they are not going to do it without the BOE requiring it be done. Making the work a public matter gives recognition to the faculty which they generally appreciate.

What RK is doing is not curricula development – she is reacting to the nonsense from Washington and Albany. It seems like the BOE is absent. There must be some conscientious teachers who care about curricula, but are they getting any support from the Dept. Chairs and the administration? Who is telling RK what to do or approving her projects and recommendations?

One may feel that there are too many areas of the curricula that need improvement to concentrate on one area. However, focusing on one area in a public way will stimulate effort on all areas. Suppose the BOE said to the administration that they wanted a comprehensive review of all English curricula K – 12 and, working with the Supt. and the Asst. Supt., organized a committee and set a timetable for a report and public presentation?

Irvington Parents Forum at Yahoo
IUFSD Factoids

Just back from the Common Core meeting at Main Street School tonight.

One factoid that leapt out at me: the price of a new K-5 math textbook series, RK reported, is roughly $100K. That is the reason, she said, or a reason, we do not have math textbooks. Normally, at this point in the cycle,* we would be vetting published textbooks, piloting them in the classroom, and choosing the one that works best, but not now, not with Common Core.

Today we’re using the free “math modules” being posted on engageny, downloading each module as it’s posted. The math modules are new, so new they are being written as we speak. They have never been taught by a teacher, or field-tested with a child. But they are free, and they carry the Common Core brand, so we are using them.

The ancient tradition of textbook adoption and 10-year textbook adoption cycles is gone with the wind.

Meanwhile we have over $2 million dollars sitting in the fund balance, as the district’s auditor confirmed three board meetings ago. The sum in the IUFSD fund balance, he said, is the “maximum allowable under the law.”

(He also mentioned that the law did not require an audit of our federal funds because we received less than $500K from the federal government.)

So. $2.16 million in the fund balance and we’re downloading never-before-taught math modules from the internet because they’re aligned with Common Core and they’re free.

Meanwhile Singapore and Saxon Math have been around for years, have been extensively field-tested, and have at least some reasonably sound data to show their effectiveness. And the Singapore series (Primary Mathematics) is universally endorsed by real mathematicians, as opposed to “math educators” (the term of art in ed-school precincts). Singapore Math may be the best math curriculum available in the English language.

For $100K Irvington children could learn math from the best math curriculum in the English language, or, for $0 Irvington children can learn math from engageny math modules the district downloads from the web.

We chose Door Number 2.

Here’s a question.

If we did not have a Curriculum Director, would we have math textbooks?

Would classroom teachers, acting on their own, choose to teach math without a textbook?

I don’t believe they would. Teaching math from packets is as hard as learning math from packets, or can be. I know because I teach grammar and writing from packets. My students need a good textbook, and so do I.

But education schools dislike textbooks, which they see as old-fashioned, sage-on-the-stage affairs, and curriculum directors are trained by education schools.

Untested math modules on the internet are “21st century” (a compliment in the education world), just like the position of “Curriculum Director itself,” which, like the math modules, did not exist at all in days gone by.


We’ve still got timed worksheets, which is more than most districts can say. And we’re going to continue to have timed worksheets: RK mentioned “fluency” several times. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the concept of fluency incorporated into other subjects: a very good idea. We desperately need to give kids fluency in reading and writing (something I’m working on myself in my own teaching).

Things could be worse. (See, e.g.: Dobbs Ferry)

UPDATE: “Fluency” = “automaticity.” Both words describe actions — and “thoughts” — you can perform rapidly, accurately, and largely or entirely outside of conscious awareness.

People who are fluent in a skill or area of content are fluent. This is why the requirement that children “explain” how they reached their answer in math is so wrong. Very often, a student who is really good at math just “gets it” without having to resort to effort-filled, conscious  reasoning. When you force that student to “explain his reasoning,” you force him or her to “translate” his correct answer into words; you force him or her to function in the way a less talented student does.

Contra RK’s assertion last night, in the real world, NOT having to “think” is the goal. We need to acquire sufficient knowledge, and sufficient “automaticity” in our knowledge, that we look at a problem and know.

We should save thinking, which is tremendously effortful and rapidly drains mental resources, for advanced questions, and strive for fluency in everything else.

Fluency is reached through knowledge stored in long-term memory.

* UPDATE 10/26/2013: A friend reminds me that we do not have a 10-year textbook adoption cycle, as mentioned during the presentation. We have a 3-year curriculum cycle (or curriculum-review cycle). The 3-year cycle, as I recall, does not require that we change textbooks; we revisit textbook choices and review.

Fund balance could pay for $385K administrative offices

Until I attended the Common Core event at Hunter College last week, I knew very little about Common Core’s ELA standards. Now that I know more about Common Core’s requirement that students spend the majority of their time reading “informational text” in English class, I am opposed — although I do strongly support Common Core’s effort to replace personal narratives with textual analysis.

If seniors must spend up to 80% of their time reading reading, studying, and writing about informational text, that does not leave time for reading, studying, and writing about Great Expectations, say. And in fact, Common Core neglects British literature.

Below is a slide from a Common Core presentation in Orange, NJ. title: The Common Core State Standards: What You Need to Know.

Click image to enlarge
Common Core Informational Texts
How Common Core’s ELA Standards Place College Readiness at Risk
Truth in American Education (TAE)

(click on image to enlarge)

Andy Isaacs bio

It goes without saying that when 7th grade students choose their own reading material, they do not select “The Charge of the Light Brigade.”

What do home buyers want?
Curriculum & property values
Children choosing books
E.D. Hirsch’s Core Knowledge Sequence by grade
Per pupil spending

The Charge of the Light Brigade by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Robert Pondiscio on Reading Workshop (scroll down)
A New Assignment: Pick Books You Like
By MOTOKO RICH August 29, 2009

Call me E.D. Hirsch
Nonfiction Curriculum Enhanced Reading Skills, Study Finds
By Anna M. Phillips March 11, 2012

Sandra Stotsky on students choosing their own books in English class

What Kids Are Reading: The Book-Reading Habits of Students
in American Schools 2012 | Renaissance Learning
What Kids Are Reading: The Book-Reading Habits of Students in
..American Schools 2013 | Renaissance Learning

Irvington: Lucy Calkins Reading Workshop

IUFSD has adopted Lucy Calkins’ Reading Workshop (scroll down) , a “balanced literacy” approach to English Language Arts that rejects assigned reading in favor of each student choosing the book he or she will read.

In 7th grade, IMS students read two shared (whole class) novels:

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton (reading level: Grade 5.1)
The Giver by Lois Lowry (reading level: Grad 5.9)

Below is a partial list of books Irvington 7th graders read during Fall 2011, provided by IMS principal David Sottile: these are the books individual children chose to read. By March, students were on track to read approximately 25 books apiece in total during the school year, all but 2 of their own choosing.

(Click on screen shot to enlarge)

Core Knowledge: 7th Grade English Reading List

The works listed below are assigned reading. All students read, discuss, study, and write about each work in the curriculum.

If Irvington were to adopt Core Knowledge (or a variant of Core Knowledge), we would be able to post this curriculum on the district website and distribute it to realtors. This is the curriculum many (perhaps most) parents want; this is the curriculum (or one like it) people pay private and parochial schools to provide to their children.

NOTE: the Core Knowledge curriculum is free.

Annabel Lee (Edgar Allan Poe)
Because I could not stop for Death (Emily Dickinson)
The Charge of the Light Brigade (Alfred Lord Tennyson)
The Chimney Sweeper (both versions from The Songs of Innocence and The Songs
of Experience; William Blake)
The Cremation of Sam McGee (Robert Service)
Dulce et Decorum Est (Wilfred Owen)
Fire and Ice; Nothing Gold Can Stay (Robert Frost)
Heritage (Countee Cullen)
Macavity: The Mystery Cat (T.S. Eliot)
The Negro Speaks of Rivers; Harlem; Life is Fine (Langston Hughes)
This Is Just to Say; The Red Wheelbarrow (William Carlos Williams)

“The Gift of the Magi” (O. Henry)
“The Necklace” (Guy de Maupassant)
“The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” (James Thurber)
“The Tell-Tale Heart”; “The Purloined Letter” (Edgar Allan Poe)

The Call of the Wild (Jack London)
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (Robert Louis Stevenson)

“Shooting an Elephant” (George Orwell)
“The Night the Bed Fell” (James Thurber)
“Declaration of War on Japan” (Franklin D. Roosevelt)

Diary of a Young Girl (Anne Frank)

Cyrano de Bergerac (Edmond Rostand)

SOURCE: Core Knowledge Sequence: Content and Skill Guidelines for Grades K–8

Robert Pondiscio on Reading Workshop (scroll down)
A New Assignment: Pick Books You Like
By MOTOKO RICH August 29, 2009

Call me E.D. Hirsch
Nonfiction Curriculum Enhanced Reading Skills, Study Finds
By Anna M. Phillips March 11, 2012

Sandra Stotsky on students choosing their own books in English class

What Kids Are Reading: The Book-Reading habits of Students
in American Schools 2012 | Renaissance Learning

What Kids Are Reading: The Book-Reading Habits of Students in
..American Schools 2013 | Renaissance Learning

What do home buyers want?
Curriculum & property values
Children choosing books

E.D. Hirsch’s Core Knowledge Sequence by grade
Per pupil spending

It seems that the share of our economy devoted to information technology is plunging, whereas the share devoted to primary metals production is soaring.  In 2000 IT was 2 1/2 times larger than primary metals.  Now primary metals is far bigger.  We desperately need to retrain Silicon Valley engineers on how to dig up copper in the Arizona desert; otherwise Silicon Valley will soon look like Detroit.
The Money Illusion

source: Modeled Behavior

In public education, it is an article of faith that 21st century students need 21st century skills, and 21st century skills are the skills you need to invent Facebook: “technology.”

Students need to learn “technology,” and to learn “technology,” students need to attend schools that buy lots of “technology.”

Maybe not.

what people who do not have children in the schools pay to educate the children of people who do
how we got here
4 is not 2
budget vote
Core Knowledge: curriculum & property values