A Guide to the 2015-2016 American Leadership Academy

K – 8 Curriculum

1. What is the difference between the Common Core standards and the Core Knowledge Sequence?
Common Core Core Knowledge Sequence
Standards (What students must be able to do) Curriculum (What students need to learn to meet the standards)
State Mandated (State Level) Governing Board Adopted (Local Level)
Adopted in 2010 Published in 1988
Set of math and language arts skills that must be mastered by the end of each grade Coherent, cumulative, and cohesive outline of content that must be taught in each grade
National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) developed the standards E.D. Hirsch and the Core Knowledge Foundation developed the Sequence after conducting extensive research
Purpose: to ensure that students have mastered the necessary skills at the end of each grade level so that they are prepared for college or career. Purpose: to ensure equity for all students in every school across the country and to ensure that all students are culturally literate through access to a shared body of knowledge.
Example standards:

  • Students will be able to add numbers which total up to 20
  • Students will be able to identify the author, title, and illustrator when listening to a story.
  • Students will listen to recounts of historical events and people and discuss how they relate to present day. 
Examples of curricular units:

  • Money
  • Patterns and Classification
  • Poetry
  • Fiction
  • Presidents, Past and Present
  • Introduction to Magnetism
  • Seasons and Weather 
Currently, 43 states have voluntarily adopted the Common Core standards. During the 2013–2014 school year there were 1,260 Core Knowledge schools.
Common Core state standards only address math and language arts skills. The Core Knowledge Sequence addresses all content areas: mathematics, language arts, science, history, music, and art. 
 The standards provide a floor, or a minimum expectation  Core Knowledge allows us to exceed the state standards expectations by immersing students in rich content that is fully aligned across the subjects and grades
2. What is the difference between CKLA and the Core Knowledge Sequence?

CKLA (Core Knowledge Language Arts) Core Knowledge Sequence
Daily Lessons and resources designed for alignment to the Core Knowledge Language Arts Sequence Yearly outline of liberal arts content (math, science, history, language arts, music, and art)
Finalized in 2013 Published in 1988
Created for Grades K-5 Created for Grades K-8
Published by Amplify (for profit curriculum company) Published by the Core Knowledge Foundation (non-profit organization)
3. Why has ALA decided to adopt CKLA for the 15-16 school year?

Previous Language Arts Model (14-15) Current Language Arts Model (15-16)
  • K: Spalding, Core Knowledge Literature, and Junior Great Books
  • 1-3: Spalding, Core Knowledge Literature, Junior Great Books, and Shurley
  • 4: Spalding, Core Knowledge Literature, Junior Great Books, and Hake
  • 5-8: Junior Great Books, Core Knowledge Literature, Hake, and Latin
  • K-5: CKLA
  • 6-8: Hake, Latin, and Core Knowledge Sequence
Goal: To align all content to the Core Knowledge Sequence Goal: To align all content to the Core Knowledge Sequence
Provides explicit instruction in the areas of: Comprehension, phonemic awareness, and phonics (weak in fluency and vocabulary instruction) Provides explicit instruction in the areas of: Fluency, comprehension, phonemic awareness, phonics, and vocabulary
Extensive Teacher Training (2 weeks minimum with coaching throughout the year) Reasonable Teacher Training (1-2 Days with coaching throughout the year)
Lack of content cohesiveness across the grade levels because of the use of 6 different language arts programs Cohesive, coherent, and cumulative approach to instruction through the use of one comprehensive language arts program in grades K-5
Lack of fidelity to each program due to daily time constraints Ability to implement the program with 100% fidelity due to vertical alignment across each subject area
Explicit, systematic approach to phonics instruction Explicit, systematic approach to phonics instruction
All three sounds for the phonogram “a” are taught at once The first and most common sound of “a” is taught first and connected to decodable words. All remaining sounds are taught after students master the first and most common sound of each phonogram.
  • Kinder: 15 word spelling list based on the Ayres word list
  • 1st-4th: 30 word spelling test based on the Ayres word list
  • Kinder: Daily practice of decodable and tricky words based on phonograms that have been introduced (no spelling tests)
  • 1st-5th: Weekly spelling tests based on 10-20 domain-specific vocabulary terms
Spelling words are selected based on their order in the Ayres word list. Spelling words are chosen based on the student’s exposure to the phonograms in each word. Students are never expected to know the spelling of a word prior to learning the sounds that make the word. Spelling words are connected to vocabulary seen in literature, history, and science.
Spelling is not connected to the literature. Spelling is connected to literature for greater skill and content retention
Benchmark testing Benchmark testing
Remediation and enrichment strategies are teacher generated Suggestions for remediation and enrichment are provided
4. Was this decision made so that ALA’s curriculum could more closely align with Common Core?

No, here are the facts behind the change to CKLA:

  • An annual curriculum review is conducted by members of the Executive Leadership Team and the academic department once annual state testing data is been released.
  • A drop in language arts performance was noted across the majority of schools for the 13-14 school year.
  • K-5 teacher feedback has been given for several years on the number of language arts programs that have been adopted and the difficulty in implementing to fidelity and lack of cohesiveness.
  • Teachers have also given feedback on the amount of training that is required to master each program and how this overwhelms incoming staff.
  • Due to the drop in student performance and feedback from teachers, a review of 6 language arts programs was conducted by the academic department to determine if a curriculum change was needed.
  • After reviewing 6 programs, it was determined that the CKLA curriculum allowed us to better implement the Core Knowledge Sequence with 100% fidelity.
  • When discussed with the Parent Advisory Council, the feedback from the group regarding a possible switch to CKLA was positive.
  • Campus assistant directors were asked to review CKLA with their grade level teams as assigned:
    • Mesa: Kindergarten
    • STV: 1st Grade
    • Mesa: 2nd Grade
    • Gilbert: 3rd grade
    • Anthem: 4th  Grade
    • QCE: 5th Grade
  • Feedback overall from teachers was positive according to the provided questionnaire’s.
  • A recommendation was made to the Executive Leadership Team to adopt CKLA for the 15-16 school year after collecting student performance data, and parent/teacher feedback.
  • After reviewing the benefits to CKLA and weaknesses in our current model, members of the Executive Leadership Team made the recommendation to adopt CKLA to the Governing Board.
  • The Governing Board made the motion to adopt CKLA for the 15-16 school year and parents were notified of the change on April 24th.
  • An administrator CKLA training is planned for mid-June with a parent training scheduled for late June (dates TBD)
5. Is Saxon staying for the 15-16 school year?

Yes, we have seen tremendous growth across the district since the adoption of Saxon. Saxon is recommended for use by the Core Knowledge Foundation. Additional Resources:

If you would like to view the CKLA digital curriculum resources, please feel free to utilize this site and login information: