Knowledge Map: Mapping the Knowledge Domains in ELA Curricula
Ashley Berner & David Steiner, Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy
Students in the United States lag behind their international peers academically in both absolute and relative terms. Research suggests a key factor behind the low performance: our classrooms may promote academic skills, but often fail to teach academic knowledge. High-performing countries, by contrast, require students to master important domains of knowledge about the world and about the human condition. For this reason, the progress many of our states are making towards standards-alignment is necessary but insufficient, since those standards, especially in the English language arts (ELA), are largely silent about content. Our students need more: access to a content-rich, sequenced, robust curriculum, and educators who are prepared to impart it.
The first challenge in getting there is diagnostic: how do we know, exactly, which background knowledge a set of instructional materials provides? The Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy (“the Institute”) and Chiefs for Change have developed an innovative tool to help leaders answer exactly this question: The Knowledge Map™ for ELA.
The Knowledge Map™ allows us to review every resource in a given ELA curriculum; identify the domains of knowledge, topics, and subtopics each resource supports; rate each item’s quality according to fifteen different indicators; analyze each unit for its coherence and quality; and provide a grade-by-grade account of the topics that are reinforced – and those that are omitted. Our reviews can be calibrated to local concerns; inclusive of one or all K-12 grades as needed; and mapped onto the relevant science and social studies standards where appropriate. The analysis and reports provide critical data that enable leaders to make the best ELA curricular decisions for the students they serve.
The Institute and Chiefs for Change have piloted the Knowledge Map™ project in districts across the country. The work is housed within a dedicated database at Johns Hopkins University that allows long-term research on important national questions, such as: Are there specific books that most American students read? At which grade level? Are there important variations in rigor and content between high- and low-performing school systems? What patterns and trends are noticeable across time and between regions of the country or school sectors? This one-of-a-kind instrument is already influencing how our pilot districts approach ELA curricular choices. We look forward to supporting additional districts, charter management organizations, and private-school networks, and to bringing new data to the national conversation on the curriculum effect.
- Is the achievement gap actually a knowledge gap? (American Enterprise Institute) Link
- How gaps in content knowledge hold students back: The Knowledge Map project helps districts identify content gaps and close them (The Hechinger Report) Link
- New ‘Knowledge Mapping’ Tool Evaluates English Language Arts Curricula (EducationNext) Link
PATHWAY 2 TOMORROW
Pathway 2 Tomorrow: Local Visions for America’s Future (P2T) matches responsive and agile education policy solutions with the needs of states and local communities.
For questions please contact us