Since Hillsdale is a college, why does it care about education for K-12 students?
Hillsdale College is a teaching institution. Its primary work is the teaching of college students in the liberal arts and sciences. The college’s mission states that it will “furnish all persons who wish, irrespective of nation, color or sex, a literary and scientific education.” Its work in K-12 education arises out of this desire to help “all who wish” to learn. This includes children in K-12 schools and those who are responsible for providing for their educations—first parents, then statesmen and teachers.
Hillsdale teaches schools and teachers about K-12 education, first, for the sake of America’s children, and second, for the sake of our country.
Does Hillsdale College own, manage, or profit from schools?
With the exception of Hillsdale Academy—founded on its campus in 1991—Hillsdale College does not own, manage, or profit from any of its affiliate schools.
How does Hillsdale College teach all who wish to learn about K-12 education?
Hillsdale College serves members of the public—including schools, teachers, and citizens interested in K-12 education—in the following ways.
Hillsdale Classical Schools are schools affiliated with Hillsdale College that offer an American classical education. These schools fall into two categories of affiliation with Hillsdale:
Curriculum Schools receive a license to use Hillsdale’s K-12 curricular scope and sequence (a list of the things to be taught, and the order in which to teach them) and a list of recommended resources (books, textbooks, maps, art supplies, science lab supplies, and more) for every grade level and subject.
Member Schools receive the same curricular recommendations as Curriculum Schools, but they also receive from Hillsdale ongoing advice and professional development for their governing boards, administration, and teachers. This advice comes from onsite trainings and classroom observations, conferences on Hillsdale’s campus, focus groups, and remote training opportunities.
The Hoogland Center for Teacher Excellence provides professional development to public, private, and charter school teachers across the country through a series of free seminars focused on the content of an excellent K-12 education and practices for effective classroom instruction.
The Hillsdale 1776 Curriculum is the publicly available, free, and transparent collection of lesson plans, assessments, and primary sources for teaching American history and civics to K-12 students, based on instruction in Hillsdale affiliate schools.
Does Hillsdale College charge schools, teachers, or taxpayers for its K-12 support?
No. Curricular recommendations and teaching advice are 100% free for schools, teachers, and taxpayers. Hillsdale College does not take one penny from federal, state, or local governments, either directly or indirectly. The Literacy Essentials literacy curriculum, produced by Hillsdale, is available for a price that simply covers the cost of production.
How does Hillsdale College fund its work in K-12 Education?
Our work is made possible by gifts to Hillsdale College from generous friends united by a common purpose.
How does Hillsdale College contract with schools and governments?
Hillsdale College currently only has contracts for free licensed use of its K-12 curriculum and for the free advice and professional development it provides to Hillsdale College Member Schools. No contracts exist with any government, state or local. Hillsdale College does not accept any taxpayer or government funds, either directly or indirectly.
Does Hillsdale College lobby policymakers?
No. In accordance with its tax status, Hillsdale College does not lobby policymakers.
Who is behind Hillsdale's efforts in K-12 Education?
The staff of the Hillsdale College K-12 Education Office consists primarily of former teachers and school principals who work with college professors and teachers at Hillsdale classical schools to hone the curriculum and the instructional advice Hillsdale provides. Our team, professors, and teachers are devoted to bringing an excellent education in the liberal arts and sciences to every American child.
Does Hillsdale College use or endorse the Common Core? Does Hillsdale College use Core Knowledge? How are the two different?
Hillsdale College’s K-12 Education Office does not endorse the Common Core State Standards. Additionally, Common Core and Core Knowledge are very different things.
In the early days of the Barney Charter School Initiative, Hillsdale College looked to Core Knowledge’s scope and sequence as a springboard for developing its curriculum and academic program. Some of Core Knowledge’s resources are still included in the K-12 Program Guide, as are many other resources.
Though Core Knowledge and Common Core have similar names, they are very different programs.
The Core Knowledge Foundation was founded in 1986 by E.D. Hirsch, Jr., the author of Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know and many other books on education. The Core Knowledge Foundation offers curricular advice and materials to K-8 schools based on the teachings of Hirsch. The Core Knowledge Sequence is a scope and sequence for grades Kindergarten to 8th grade covering English language arts, world history and geography, American history and geography, visual arts, music, mathematics, and science. Hillsdale College’s K-12 Education Office has used parts of the Core Knowledge Sequence and some of Core Knowledge’s publications in its curriculum work.
The Common Core Standards Initiative is an educational initiative from 2010 that aims to establish national educational standards for mathematics and language arts across the United States. Today the Common Core Standards have been adopted by 41 states.
Common Core has been widely criticized for being mediocre, costly, and ineffective. In “Common Core Common Sense: Why It's Illiberal and Unconstitutional,” a 2013 address, Dr. Daniel Coupland, Dean of Hillsdale College’s Graduate School in Classical Education and Professor of Education, writes that the standards are based on a utilitarian understanding of education:
Education should be about the highest things. We should study these things—stars, plant cells, square roots, Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Mozart’s Requiem, Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address—not simply because they will get us into the right college or a particular line of work; rather, we study these noble things because they can tell us who we are, why we are here, and what our relationship is to each other as human beings and to the physical world that surrounds us.
In “A Rebirth of Liberty and Learning,” Dr. Larry P. Arnn, President of Hillsdale College, wrote that Common Core “treats students chiefly as factors of production” and that it lacks the unifying principle that a true core curriculum should have.
While the founder of Core Knowledge, E.D. Hirsch, was initially excited by the prospect of Common Core because of its seeming compatibility with a knowledge-rich curriculum, he was very critical of Common Core in Why Knowledge Matters: Rescuing Our Children From Failed Educational Theories (2016).
While Common Core is a set of standards, Core Knowledge is a curriculum. Standards are broad learning goals for an academic year, while curriculum is an organized plan of instruction that helps students meet the standards. Standards provide the ends, while the curriculum, which includes lesson plans, tests and quizzes, textbooks, primary source documents, classroom discussion, and much more, provide the means. Standards answer the question “What?” and the curriculum explains “How.”
In the United States, curriculum standards are determined at the state level, and public schools, including public charter schools, are required to meet the state standards. Many states have adopted the Common Core standards, which means that some public charter schools are required to meet the Common Core standards. Because they apply to all publicly educated students in a state, the standards provide a minimum standard for education students. The state tests that are administered in the spring of each academic year and the school grades that follow from those tests are a measure of students’ performance on those minimum standards.
Hillsdale College’s member schools meet these minimum standards, and exceed them. Because state standards typically do not include Latin, sentence diagramming, the Great Books, advanced mathematics, or many of the other wonderful things that make up a classical curriculum, Hillsdale’s scope and sequence allows schools to meet the minimum requirements set forth by the standards and exceed those standards by providing a much richer curriculum. This is possible because of the efficiency of teachers (teaching bell-to-bell, prioritizing high-quality instruction), and the effectiveness of the schools’ programs for literacy, mathematics, writing, and other academic skills.
Hillsdale’s affiliated schools perform very well on the state tests, even though teachers work with a rich classical curriculum rather than “teaching to the tests.” In grades 3-10, school performance is evaluated by looking at proficiency on state reading and math tests. For the 2021-2022 school year, Member Schools on average scored more than 15% higher than their comparable state averages across both reading and math.