CEP Adds Fuel to Fire of Curriculum Debate

February 20, 2008 1 min read

Over the past month, the wonkish education bloggers have been debating whether NCLB has had the effect of narrowing school curriculum. (See Sherman Dorn’s excellent analytic summary, and eduwonk’s recent postscript.)

The debate hinged, in part, on the interpretation of one piece of data: 44 percent of districts have increased the amount of time spent on reading and mathematics at the expense of other subjects.

The Center on Education Policy—the source of that data—is out with what it calls “a deeper analysis” of its survey.

Here’s a quick snapshot:

Some districts are finding time for additional reading and math instruction without taking away time from other subjects. Fifty-eight percent of districts reported increasing the time for reading, and 44 percent for math. But the percentage of districts decreasing the time on other subjects was smaller (36 percent reduced social studies; 28 percent, science; 16 percent, art and music; 20 percent, recess; 9 percent, physical education).
Social studies appeared to lose the most amount of time. On average, those districts cut social studies instruction by 76 minutes per week. In terms of the percentage of time cut from other subjects, all had about a one-third decrease in the amount of time dedicated to them.
Schools are focusing on reading more than math. Of the schools that allocated extra time to either or both of the subjects, 54 percent reported adding 150 minutes per week (or 30 minutes a day) of reading instruction. Just 19 percent of the districts increased their math lessons by that much.

These numbers may add fuel to the fire. But they don’t answer the nuanced question at the heart of the debate: Are schools that are increasing the amount of time on reading incorporating content from social studies, science, and the arts?

A version of this news article first appeared in the NCLB: Act II blog.


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