What is a Core Curriculum?
Introduction: What Is a Core Curriculum?
Educators define "core curriculum" as the knowledge and skills expected to be learned by a student by high school graduation. Generally, the core curriculum consists of knowledge and skills related to academic subjects. Mastery of the core curriculum is what both parents and teachers stress as essential for academic success in school, and later in life. In most states, opportunities are provided for students to meet other criteria in cases when those students cannot meet the academic demands of the core curriculum.
There are many versions of the core curriculum. In our country, each state assumes responsibility for minimum standards for high school graduation. This core curriculum becomes the foundation for almost all learning, from kindergarten through high school.
With respect to blind and visually impaired students, the existing core curriculum, as developed for sighted students, is entirely appropriate and generally available. Because educators of visually impaired students have developed expertise in curriculum adaptation, it should be possible to take any curriculum that has been developed and make it readily available for visually impaired learners. If blindness or visual impairment presents only the problem of accessibility to learning materials, then the issue of education of visually impaired students is solved by adaptation of the existing core curriculum.
Some educators of visually impaired students believe that it is true that the child in a regular classroom who has access to all curricular materials is as equally prepared to learn as her sighted classmates. But most professionals hold a strong position that there is an expanded core curriculum for visually impaired students that requires additional areas of learning.
There are experiences and concepts casually and incidentally learned by sighted students that must be systematically and sequentially taught to the visually impaired student. The core curriculum for visually impaired students is not the same as for sighted students. Indeed, it is much larger and more complex.
The concept of a core curriculum for visually impaired learners has been discussed by professionals and parents for many years. It has been called many things. It has been referred to as the specialized curriculum, or specialized needs, the unique curriculum, or unique needs, the non-academic curriculum, the dual curriculum, and most recently, the disability-specific curriculum.
These other terms are sometimes a distraction to the important issue. The term core curriculum has been used to define the basic educational needs of sighted students for many years. It is proposed that the term core curriculum for blind and visually impaired students be used to define the basic educational needs for this population. It conveys the same message as the original core curriculum. Words like specialized, unique, and disability-specific are not needed, and, indeed, may give an erroneous connotation to basic educational needs. The terms imply two separate lists of educational needs for visually impaired students. One list contains the elements of a traditional core curriculum. The other is a list of "disability-specific" needs. Two lists provide educators with options, such as one list being required and the other consisting of electives. There should be only one list, and that should consist of the required core curriculum for visually impaired students.
The existence of special needs, or a unique core curriculum for blind and visually impaired students, has been known for years. References to the subject of grooming skills date back as far as 1891. The need for social interaction skills appears in the literature in 1929 and again in 1948. Between the years 1953 and 1975, there are more than two dozen references to books and articles written about daily living skills and visually impaired students. Many more articles and documents have been written about orientation and mobility and career education. The expanded core curriculum now being promoted is not new--its need has been known for decades.
Although states determine the content of the core curriculum individually, most states demand that competencies in basic subjects be mastered. The following example incorporates these basic subjects and adds the expanded core curriculum for visually impaired students:
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