Federal

Survey: Subjects Trimmed To Boost Math and Reading

By Alyson Klein — July 30, 2007 | Corrected: February 22, 2019 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Corrected: An earlier version of this story included a headline that misidentified the findings of the Center on Education Policy survey.

Nearly half the nation’s school districts are spending less instructional time on subjects such as science, history, and art in order to prepare their students for the mathematics and reading tests mandated under the 5½-year-old No Child Left Behind Act, says a report released last week by the Center on Education Policy.

In a nationally representative survey of 349 districts, the Washington-based group found that 44 percent reported cutting time from other subjects to focus on math and reading. The decreases were relatively substantial, according to the report, totaling about 141 minutes per week across all subjects, or almost 30 minutes per day.

The July 24 report lends credibility to critics’ contention that the NCLB law’s emphasis on reading and math has squeezed out other subjects. It also bolsters arguments that the law should be expanded to include tests in science, social studies, and other subjects.

“This report matches everything we’ve seen,” said Gerald F. Wheeler, the executive director of the National Science Teachers Association, based in Arlington, Va. “We need to be more intelligent about what it means to educate the whole child.”

Mr. Wheeler said the federal government should add science to the NCLB accountability system so that schools will set aside time for it. Beginning with the new school year, under NCLB, states must test students in science three times before high school graduation. States may count those scores for accountability purposes, but they’re not required to do so.

Exposure to subjects such as history can help students master higher-order thinking skills in math and reading, said Theodore K. Rabb, a professor emeritus at Princeton University and the board chairman of the National Council for History Education, based in Westlake, Okla.

But others say schools are right to focus on reading and math, particularly in the early grades.

“If you can’t read, what can you do?” said Sandra Stotsky, who, starting next month, will be an education professor at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. “If you can’t do math, you can’t ultimately do science.”

The CEP reported similar findings in a March 2006 report, which found that many districts had increased instructional time in math and reading at the elementary level, sometimes by giving short shrift to other subjects. (“Study: NCLB Leads to Cuts for Some Subjects,” April 5, 2006.)

Events

Recruitment & Retention Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table: Chronic Teacher Shortage: Where Do We Go From Here?  
Join Peter DeWitt, Michael Fullan, and guests for expert insights into finding solutions for the teacher shortage.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Reading & Literacy Webinar
The Science of Reading: Tools to Build Reading Proficiency
The Science of Reading has taken education by storm. Learn how Dr. Miranda Blount transformed literacy instruction in her state.
Content provided by hand2mind
Student Achievement K-12 Essentials Forum Tutoring Done Right: How to Get the Highest Impact for Learning Recovery
Join us as we highlight and discuss the evidence base for tutoring, best practices, and different ways to provide it at scale.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Federal Q&A Boosting 'Pathetically Low' Teacher Pay Is Top of Mind for Bernie Sanders
The progressive senator from Vermont spoke with Education Week as he prepares to chair the Senate's education committee.
6 min read
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., talks with reporters outside the West Wing of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2023.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., talks with reporters outside the West Wing of the White House in Washington, in late January.
Susan Walsh/AP
Federal What’s Behind the Push for a $60K Base Teacher Salary
When reintroduced in Congress, a bill to raise teacher salaries will include money to account for regional cost differences.
5 min read
Teachers from Seattle Public Schools picket outside Roosevelt High School on what was supposed to be the first day of classes, Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2022, in Seattle. The first day of classes at Seattle Public Schools was cancelled and teachers are on strike over issues that include pay, mental health support, and staffing ratios for special education and multilingual students.
Teachers from Seattle Public Schools picket outside Roosevelt High School on what was supposed to be the first day of classes, Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2022, in Seattle. The first day of classes at Seattle Public Schools was cancelled and teachers are on strike over issues that include pay, mental health support, and staffing ratios for special education and multilingual students.
Jason Redmond/AP
Federal Teachers Shouldn't Have to Drive Ubers on the Side, Education Secretary Says
In a speech on priorities for the year, U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said teachers should be paid competitive salaries.
5 min read
U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona delivers a speech during the “Raise the Bar: Lead the World” event in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 24, 2023.
U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona delivers a speech during the “Raise the Bar: Lead the World” event in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 24, 2023.
Sam Mallon/Education Week
Federal A Chaotic Start to a New Congress: What Educators Need to Know
A new slate of lawmakers will have the chance to influence federal education policy in the 118th Congress.
4 min read
Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., talks on the House floor after the first vote for House Speaker when he did not receive enough votes to be elected during opening day of the 118th Congress at the U.S. Capitol, Tuesday, Jan 3, 2023, in Washington.
Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., talks on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives on Jan. 3 following the first round of voting for House Speaker. McCarthy fell short of enough votes to be elected speaker in three rounds of voting on opening day of the 118th Congress at the U.S. Capitol.
Andrew Harnik/AP