Category Research
Author Stacey Hardin

The Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy has been selected by Pathway 2 Tomorrow as one of 24 awardees nationwide for its knowledge-mapping project. Award-winning teams receive a $15,000 stipend to prepare their project for inclusion in P2T’s catalogue for local- and state-level education policymakers and practitioners.

“P2T aims to support implementation and scale of innovative solutions, and we are honored to be a recipient of this award,” says Ashley Berner, deputy director of the Institute for Education Policy. “We began the project in response to the needs of district and state partners. This award will allow us to support more districts—small, large, and in between—as they strengthen instructional models. We’re excited about the path ahead.”

The institute developed the knowledge-mapping tool as a response to compelling research that students’ reading levels—especially from fifth grade onwards—are very closely related to their level of background content knowledge. Research, both international and domestic, shows that instructional materials that intentionally build content knowledge, rather than merely reinforce skills, have an outsized, positive effect upon student success. Most democracies around the world require all schools to teach a common body of knowledge, and a comprehensive, content-rich curriculum is a signature feature of high-performers.

Despite the research record, the great majority of the English language arts curricula in the United States treat texts not as a source of building knowledge, but simply as a site for honing disembodied reading “skills.” State assessments follow suit: by design, they do not assume that students have read any specific texts or mastered any specific literary genre. Consequently, education leaders seldom know which knowledge their students have mastered across the K-12 system. The institute’s knowledge map steps into this gap, and provides compelling, actionable data that leaders around the country have begun to use to adopt or amend classroom materials.

In partnership with Chiefs for Change, the Institute for Education Policy is developing a dedicated database to curate the findings and enable the team to report cross-sections of data according to text, grade-level, and knowledge domain, as well as for the entire curriculum. By November 2018, this innovative resource will be deployed by a team of teacher-experts who have been trained at Johns Hopkins University.

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