Research Finds NCLB Dumbs Down Curriculum

January 18, 2008 1 min read

It’s easy to collect anecdotes of teachers and parents saying instruction has been dumbed down since NCLB became law in 2002.

But now one professor is saying she has the research to prove those stories reflect what’s actually happening in schools.

In a Q&A published by the University of Maryland, Associate Professor Linda Valli said that test-prep pressures have significantly changed teachers’ instruction. They aren’t spending as much time on higher-order thinking skills or assigning as many projects that require critical thinking, said Valli, who started tracking classroom instruction in 2000.

“Because of NCLB,” Vallli says, “teachers are now called upon to produce very concrete outcomes for students that work against good teaching.”

NCLB backers will have responses to this. In this book review, Kevin Carey of Education Sector argues that the rudimentary skills low-income students are being taught are probably better than the education they received before NCLB. And in It’s Being Done, Karin Chenoweth suggests that not all schools serving low-income kids are teaching low-level skills.

But which message is resonating more? The one about dumbing down the curriculum for all? Or the one about increasing the rigor of the curriculum for the lowest achievers?

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