Why Knowledge Matters

Is it really important that kids know things?  Shouldn’t they just learn to think?

It's natural to assume that teaching lots of "stuff" isn't important anymore when students can simply Google anything they need to know. But you probably take for granted how much "walking-around knowledge" you carry inside your head—and how much it helps you. If you have a rich base of background knowledge, it's easier to learn more. And it's much harder to read with comprehension, solve problems and think critically if you don't.

The idea that we have to choose between knowledge and thinking skills is a false choice. Kids need both. “The richer the knowledge base, the more smoothly and effectively cognitive processes — the very ones that teachers target — operate,” notes University of Virginia cognitive scientist Daniel T. Willingham. "So, the more knowledge students accumulate the smarter they become."

An education grounded in shared knowledge of history, science, art and music is also the great equalizer. The Core Knowledge Foundation believes that for the sake of academic excellence, greater equity, and higher literacy, elementary and middle schools need to teach a coherent, cumulative, and content-specific core curriculum.

"Our society cannot afford a two-tiered system in which the affluent have access to a superior education, while everyone else is subjected to a dull and incoherent classroom experience. Academic excellence, educational equity and fairness demand a strong foundation of knowledge for all learners."

— E. D. Hirsch, Jr.


The Core Knowledge Sequence is predicated on the realization that what children are able to learn at any given moment depends on what they already know—and, equally important, that what they know is a function of previous experience and teaching. Although current events and technology are constantly changing, there is a body of lasting knowledge and skills that form the core of a strong preschool–grade 8 curriculum. Explicit identification of what children should learn at each grade level ensures a coherent approach to building knowledge across all grade levels. Every child should learn the fundamentals of science, basic principles of government, important events in world history, essential elements of mathematics, widely acknowledged masterpieces of art and music from around the world, and stories and poems passed down from generation to generation.


The Core Knowledge Sequence provides a clear outline of content to be learned grade by grade so that knowledge, language, and skills build cumulatively from year to year. This sequential building of knowledge not only helps ensure that children enter each new grade ready to learn, it also helps prevent the repetitions and gaps that so often characterize current education. No more repeated units in multiple years on the rain forest, with little or no attention to the Bill of Rights, world geography, or exposure to other cultures. Core Knowledge sets high expectations for all children that are achievable thanks to the cumulative, sequential way that knowledge and skills build. Teachers in Core Knowledge schools have assurance that children will emerge well prepared with a shared body of knowledge and skills.


A typical state or district curriculum says, “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? The 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?”  Teachers are free to devote their energies and efforts to creatively planning how to teach the content to the children in their classrooms. 

For more information on the Core Knowledge Sequence, please click here.

The Common Core State Standards provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn, so teachers and parents know what they need to do to help them. The standards are designed to be robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that our young people need for success in college and careers. As a Core Knowledge school, our standards meet and exceed Common Core State Standards. With American students fully prepared for the future, our communities will be best positioned to compete successfully in the global economy.

Families with students with special needs experience a unique set of rewards and challenges.  As students enter our school, please know that we are ready to assist in this transition process.

To prepare students to be college and career ready, the HLA partners with the Special Education department of the Twin Rivers School District.  Through this collaboration, we support families through the assessment, eligibility and provision of specially designed academic instruction to assist students to achieve their maximum potential. The Twin Rivers School District offers a full continuum of services for eligible students with special needs.  Eligible students receive specialized academic instruction and related services to meet their unique needs as recommended in their Individualized Education Program (IEP).  Special Education Services are provided only after all resources of the general education program have been considered and utilized.

It is the vision of the Higher Learning Academy to support and sustain the educational structures and practices to be inclusive of all students with or without disabilities, to empower them to become responsible and productive citizens in today’s global society.

Each student will:

  • Be welcomed
  • Be valued
  • Be given access to rigorous teaching and learning
  • Be appropriately supported to access general education curriculum


Higher Learning Academy is excited to announce the implementation of a Transitional Kindergarten Program for our students. A transitional kindergarten is the first year of a two-year kindergarten program that uses a modified kindergarten curriculum that is age and developmentally appropriate.  This program is open to students who are too young to be accepted for the traditional Kindergarten program with its new age cut off of September 2nd. A child is eligible for transitional kindergarten if a child will have his or her fifth birthday between September 2nd and December 2nd. The program is a half day morning program.

Space is limited for the program, so please complete and submit your application as soon as possible. Applications are available here and from the HLA office.

Thank you!

David Patterson, Ed.D.



Early Kindergarten students are often academically, emotionally, and socially not ready for the today’s traditional kindergarten. With the rigor of today’s California Content Standards, our students may need additional time to adjust to what is expected in kindergarten. The program gives these kindergarten students “the gift of time” to develop the social, emotional, and academic skills necessary to build self-confidence and promote success in school and success beyond their school years.


Transitional Kindergarten is the first year of a two-year kindergarten program. The environment includes appropriate curriculum opportunities for language development, foundations of mathematics, and social-emotional development through dramatic play, small group instruction, and intentional teaching through hands-on activities to achieve readiness for traditional kindergarten. Traditional kindergarten is a one year program with a curriculum based on the California Content Standards.