Too Much Emphasis on Reading and Math?

According to a large number of surveyed educators who teach grades 3-12, U.S. public schools are spending too much time on reading and math and not enough on other subjects. Yes, math and reading are important. But what about science, foreign languages and social studies?

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Other Subjects 'Crowded Out'

So how do teachers really feel?

According to a survey conducted for Common Core, an education advocacy group, more than two-thirds of polled teachers feel that reading and math 'crowd out' other subjects and that they have had to 'skip important topics' in other classes in order to stick to the 'required curriculum'.

About half of the teachers say that students struggling in math and/or reading are pulled out of other classes, such as social studies or science, to get extra help in these areas. And a whopping 81% of elementary school teachers surveyed say math and language arts get extra attention at the expense of other subjects.

Who's to Blame?

Many point to the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law, enacted in 2001, for what some might say is an over-emphasis on math and reading.

NCLB placed such an enormous focus on reading and math proficiency, with goals of having every student in the United States proficient in both subjects by 2014, that schools were left with little choice but to increase instructional time in these areas.

Common Core's president and executive director, Lynne Munson, told Education News in December 2011: 'NCLB clearly identifies our core curriculum as reading, math, science, social studies, and even the arts. But...we have abandoned many of these core subjects in pursuit of higher reading and math scores.'

She added, 'We are denying our students the complete education they deserve and the law demands.'

Changes on the Way

A proposal late last year by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee may help to get this issue resolved.

Title IV of the proposed changes to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) calls for a 'well-rounded education', with a grant program 'aimed at providing students with resources related to a plethora of subjects', according to New America Foundation, a nonprofit public policy institute.

Doing away with NCLB, which many states have elected to do over the past several months, will certainly help whether the ESEA bill passes or not. No longer will the emphasis be on standardized testing and specific subjects like math and reading.

Instead, President Obama's education plan calls for the adoption of 'college and career ready' standards, with an increased focus on science, technology and innovation.

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