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December 10, 2008

that narrow curriculum: it's not all about NCLB

Some time ago, we received a Ford Foundation grant to document the problem that almost everyone decried: because of the testing requirements in the No Child Left Behind Act (the comprehensive federal law related to pre-college education), schools were focusing on math and reading to the exclusion of social studies, art, music, physical education, and extracurriculars. All the data that supposedly demonstrated this problem came from current surveys of educational administrators or citizens, who were asked to say whether they believed curricula had narrowed since the passage of NCLB. They said yes.

We set out to provide supportive evidence by examining historical data about what teachers actually teach and kids actually study (based on contemporaneous surveys of students and teachers). What we found was much more complex and nuanced than our original hypothesis. Instead of "documenting" a problem, we showed that it didn't exist in the way we had expected.

I personally believe that the narrowing of the curriculum in the early grades is a significant problem. But it cannot be solved by lifting testing provisions in NCLB. It's a much broader and more complex issue.

December 10, 2008 10:14 AM | category: advocating civic education , education policy | Comments


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