To the Editor:
You report in (“Study: NCLB Leads to Cuts for Some Subjects,” April 5, 2006) that, according to research conducted by the Center on Education Policy, schools nationwide are reducing time spent on subjects not mandated for federal testing—social studies, music, and art—because of the No Child Left Behind Act’s emphasis on reading and math.
Science, not mentioned in your article, is supposedly a top priority of the government. In his State of the Union Address, President Bush said that the nation must improve its math and science education if we are to remain competitive in the global economy. He called for placing tens of thousands more math and science teachers in schools, and raising the number of low-income students taking Advanced Placement courses (“Bush Proposes Math and Science Initiatives,” Feb. 8, 2006). That concern is echoed by governors across the country and the political spectrum.
Grandiose talk is cheap. Good education programs are expensive and need extensive preparation. Lost in the rhetoric is a key fact: Advanced-level secondary education starts in middle schools, is cumulative, and must be a priority. Students should take pre-algebra in 7th grade, then algebra—the foundation for all higher math and science study—in 8th grade. Otherwise, they’re not ready for those AP courses. But current credentialing criteria may not prepare middle school teachers for secondary-level work.
Mr. Bush calls for more highly-qualified math and science teachers and more AP classes. He boasts of “supplementary services” money for struggling students, but offers no help for students taking costly AP exams. His proposed budget for fiscal 2007 would cut $2 billion in discretionary spending for education as Congress cuts $12 billion from the low-interest-loan program for college students.
Hoping for excellence while funding only remediation is a faith-based policy that does not compute.
Betty Raskoff Kazmin
A version of this article appeared in the May 03, 2006 edition of Education Week as Hoping for Excellence, Funding Remediation