The United States Education Secretary, John B. King, Jr, says that we need to start developing a more well-rounded education program for school children. At a conference Thursday, in Las Vegas, King advises that some schools have focused too much on reading and math, investing too much in testing for those subjects [thanks to the No Child Left Behind Law of 2002]. But, King says, we need more programs which also emphasize science, social studies, and the arts as well.
“There is a lot of reason to believe that students are not getting the instruction in science, social studies, the arts, and world languages that they need,” he comments. “I count myself among those who worry that the balance has shifted too much away from subjects outside of math and English that can be the spark to a child’s interest and excitement, are actually essential to success in reading, and are critical to a child’s future.”
King points to a recent survey which indicates elementary school students spend only about 21 minutes (or less) per classroom day on social studies; similarly on science subjects. Thus, the new law will expand on the No Child Left Behind statutes and return control of schools to individual states, moving away from linking student performance on statewide proficiency tests and instead focusing on individual teacher evaluation.
And so, the Council of Chief State School Officers agrees it is time to broaden our education base. Council Executive Director Chris Minnich advises, “Reading and math are essential, but we recognize other subject areas are critical for the long-term success of all kids. That is why in developing college-and career-ready standards like the Common Core State Standards, states have worked to infuse literacy and writing into all subject areas, not just English Language Arts. This ensures students graduate with a well-rounded education and prepared for college, careers and life.”
However, while it may seem obvious that this is the proper direction, the American Federation of Teachers is a bit more cautious. Referencing the new education law, AFT president Randi Weingarten argues, “the real question is: How will this one speech get translated to a change of direction in school districts throughout the nation?”