Yesterday's New York Times ran a front-page story with the headline, "Schools Cut Back Subjects to Push Reading and Math." Like many discussions of the impact of the No Child Left Behind Act, it seems to miss the central element that this was the inevitable consequence of the legislation. Here's an excerpt of interest:
The historian David McCullough told a Senate Committee last June that because of the law, "history is being put on the back burner or taken off the stove altogether in many or most schools, in favor of math and reading."Some may disagree with this as an objective, but one should not be surprised at the result. The logic runs as follows:
- Reading and math are deemed to be more fundamental skills than other subjects to which class time is devoted in public schools; and
- Some schools can be demonstrated to be inadequate in the outcomes they generate in reading and math; and
- Schools that are so demonstrated are unlikely to have additional financial capacity to expand their programs; so
- Those schools should be devoting more time to reading and math, with other subjects crowded out in whole or in part.
"When you only have so many hours per day and you're behind in some area that's being hammered on, you have to work on that," said Henry Lind, the schools superintendent. "It's like basketball. If you can't make layups, then you've got to work on layups."I'd like to be able to say that every school district should offer a broad curriculum of liberal arts courses including history and music and languages and lab sciences, but some school districts aren't able to do all of that successfully. So given that they won't be at the ideal, where should they be? I think of reading and math as foundational. There's very little use in trying to build on a weak foundation. That doesn't mean I support this sort of federal involvement in primary and secondary education, but it does mean that I don't think the consequences of the law, as they are described in this article, are a source of concern.
The article is well written and of interest. I recommend the whole thing.