No Child Left Behind (NCLB) has governed public education for more than five years. The Department of Education (DOE) boasts on its Web site that the accountability enforced by NCLB ensures that high standards will usher in an era in which all students are able to succeed.
While it is of the utmost importance that schools be held accountable for providing a solid education, they need to provide a broad, diverse education as well.
According to ed.gov, NCLB will succeed by adhering to the educational practices that are most successful, as determined by scientific research and surveys.
The DOE provides documents sharing the results of NCLB in each state, based on data collected between 2002 and 2005. The lead statistics used to support NCLB-effected improvements in Florida are a 16 percent increase in fourth-grade reading proficiency and a 9 percent increase in fifth grade mathematics. The DOE also reports that the black-white and Hispanic-white achievement gaps in fourth grade reading were narrowed.
The rest of the difference is evidenced by quotes from parents that originally ran in newspapers – hardly a scientific or substantial insight into NCLB’s successes.
These results are excellent and the education system should be given credit, particularly for narrowing racial achievement gaps. But the system needs to ensure that other subjects don’t fall by the wayside.
This month, the Center on Education Policy (CEP) released a report based on NCLB’s progress through its fifth year and revealed that the emphasis on reading and math scores has caused schools to sacrifice time spent on other subjects.
Social studies took the biggest hit, with time spent on the subject decreased by 36 percent across all districts that reported a change. It was followed by science, which decreased by 28 percent, and art and music, which decreased by 16 percent. Time allocated for recess, physical education and lunch has also been reduced.
Regardless of tests’ ability to quantify what children have learned, depriving children of social development, cultural studies and the sciences will hinder their ability to learn or work in a world that consists of more than just reading and math.
Elementary school education is vital to the development of well-rounded individuals, as it covers one of the most impressionable phases of life. Depriving students of equal exposure to different fields of study may hinder their development in favor of test-taking skills and improved statistics.