A Classical Curriculum, with a focus on knowledge, skills, and technical proficiency, delivered through direct instruction
This is rooted in ‘Seven Liberal Arts’, comprising:
The Trivium: Grammar, Logic, and Rhetoric; and
The Quadrivium: Arithmetic, Geometry, Music, and Astronomy.
Practically, these are explored within a model that draws upon the best provision within leading independent schools in the United Kingdom, aligned with the examination specification of the Independent Schools Examination Board (ISEB), in addition to the Core Knowledge Curriculum, and its associated focus on ‘Cultural Literacy’ in the American context. This is intended to ensure that all pupils have the ‘core’ base of knowledge required to engage, as capable learners, and citizens, with the ideas they encounter in school, and in the wider world.
At the center of all of the lessons taught at Maysville Academy is the Core Knowledge system. Compared to most curriculum standards, the Core Knowledge Sequence embodies three essential but overlooked qualities:
A typical state or district curriculum standard might say, “Students will demonstrate knowledge of people, events, ideas, and movements that contributed to the development of the United States.” But which people and events? Which ideas and movements? Another standard says, “Determine the main idea of a text and explain how it is supported by key details; summarize the text.” But what text in particular?
The Core Knowledge Sequence is distinguished by its specificity. By clearly specifying important knowledge in language arts, history, geography, math, science, and the fine arts, the Sequence presents a practical answer to the question, “What do our children need to know?”
The Sequence is not a list of facts, events, and dates to be memorized. It is a guide to content from grade to grade, designed to encourage steady academic growth and progress as children build knowledge and develop skills year after year.
The Core Knowledge Sequence provides a clear outline of content to be learned from preschool through grade eight. Knowledge, language, and skills build cumulatively from grade to grade. This cumulative building of knowledge helps ensure that children enter each new grade ready to learn.
Teachers in Core Knowledge schools can confidently predict the knowledge and skills children have been taught in prior grades, build on that learning, and prepare them for what comes next. That is because the Core Knowledge Sequence is built on the principle, firmly established by cognitive scientists, that we learn new knowledge by building on what we already know.
Individual students will differ in their degree of mastery, and mobility will require focused help for students who lack the expected prior knowledge. But the cumulative quality of the Core Knowledge Sequence greatly increases the likelihood that as children proceed from one grade to the next, they will emerge well prepared with a shared body of important knowledge and skills.
In the United States, especially in language arts instruction, curriculum tends to be fragmentary and disconnected. Such incoherence can hinder learning and vocabulary acquisition. It also leads to the repetitions and gaps that too many children experience in their early education.
In contrast, the Core Knowledge Sequence provides a coherent approach to building knowledge within a grade level and across grade levels. In schools following the Sequence, there are no repeated units in multiple grades on, say, the rainforest or pioneer days, with little or no attention to the Bill of Rights, world geography, or exposure to other cultures.
The Sequence is organized to support coherent instruction that allows students to build and deepen their knowledge grade by grade, and to make cross-curricular connections across subjects. For example, in a school following the Core Knowledge Sequence, students in fifth grade study the Renaissance. The word “renaissance” means “rebirth”—specifically, in Europe in the 1500s, a rebirth of interest in ancient Greece and Rome. Teachers in a Core Knowledge school can confidently build on students’ prior learning about ancient Greece and Rome (grades 2 and 3) and the Middle Ages (grade 4). They can connect their historical studies to topics in Visual Arts (in which the Sequence specifies masterworks by Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and others) and in Language Arts (in which the Sequence specifies episodes from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Cervantes’s Don Quixote).
Connecting across subjects and building on previous knowledge—these qualities make the Sequence coherent and effective. Take a look at some other examples of cross-curricular coherence in the Core Knowledge Sequence.
The Academy seeks to tailor provision for pupils, according to their needs, and interests. As such, where appropriate, work may progress toward preparation for standardized testing (SSAT, SAT, etc.), and externally validated assessments (Advanced Placement courses, etc).
This curriculum is supported by a focus on Direct Instruction, creating a rigorous environment in which all pupils are able to achieve their full potential. Pupils are grouped by ability, as appropriate, to allow for rapid progression through challenging material, supported by expert teachers. In this context, pupils are able to master more content, quicker than is achieved in general education, allowing pupils to progress well above the work usually undertaken by children of their age.
A knowledge rich curriculum is not pursued at the expense of a deep focus on fostering practical skills development. In contradistinction, by developing a secure base of knowledge, pupils are able to strengthen their capacity for applying their understanding, achieving mastery in a range of skills, and learning how to solve problems independently. This includes a focus on skills that address modern technology (computer programming, robotics), as well as finance, public speaking, and practical tasks.
Pupils are also expected, through sustained exposure to a respectful, and mature, environment, to stand as examples of decency, honesty, integrity, self-discipline, determination, and courage.