Dr. E.D. Hirsch, Jr. is the founder of the Core Knowledge Foundation and a Professor Emeritus of Education and Humanities at the University of Virginia. While doing research on written composition, Hirsch was “shocked into education reform.” He discovered that while the relative readability of a text was an important factor in determining a student’s ability to comprehend a passage, an even more important factor was the student’s background knowledge. From this research, Hirsch developed his groundbreaking concept of “cultural literacy”—the idea that reading comprehension requires not just formal decoding skills but also wide-ranging background knowledge. In 1986, he founded the Core Knowledge Foundation to promote this concept, and a year later published the best-selling book, Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know. Today there are over 800 Core Knowledge schools — public, charter, and independent—which teach all or part of the Core Knowledge Sequence. However, the strongest evidence of Hirsch’s impact can be seen in the development of the Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts, which rest on the intellectual underpinnings of his work. With its call to place subject matter reading at the heart of language arts instruction, stay on topics within and across grades, and to support standards with a coherent, sequential curriculum, the Common Core State Standards represent the fullest expression and acceptance of Hirsch’s ideas and insights. Hirsch has authored several other acclaimed books on education reform, including The Schools We Need and Why We Don’t Have Them, The Knowledge Deficit and The Making of Americans, solidifying his reputation as one of the most influential education reformers of our time.

 PUBLISHED: November 3, 0201

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