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Does NCLB create imbalance?

Some subjects are getting short shrift, Utah educator says

Published: Friday, April 6 2007 12:14 a.m. MDT

PROVO — One result of the federal No Child Left Behind Act is that schools are focusing more than ever on math, reading and science.

But that has come at the expense of such subjects as social studies and art, said Brett Moulding, curriculum coordinator for the Utah State Office of Education.

Moulding spoke Thursday to the Education Advisory Committee, a group of teachers and administrators from public, private and charter schools, as well as members of think tanks.

The group met in Provo at the Historic Utah County Courthouse.

The committee will make recommendations to Rep. Chris Cannon, R-Utah, about next year's reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act.

Moulding explained how the goals of NCLB — the aim of which is to make sure all children in public schools receive good educations despite income, ethnicity or ability — works in practice.

To qualify for federal funds, state education departments administer and grade standardized tests in math, language arts and science.

The tests are graded according to each state's curriculum, and schools with low test scores year after year can ultimately be closed down, according to the act.

Since NCLB was passed in 2001, students haven't been tested in history or music. In many cases, the importance of those subjects has diminished, Moulding said.

"Schools are focusing on those areas that are tested basically because they experience major public relations problems if they don't," said Juab School District Superintendent Kirk Wright.

However, Daniel Glahn, a teacher at Sharon Elementary in Orem, noted that good teachers integrate math, reading and science skills into subjects that are not tested. For instance, students gain important reading skills through social studies.

Research in other states has shown that students are more proficient than ever in math, reading and science. But on broader standardized tests such as the ACT, their scores are not much better, Moulding said.

"There has to be a balance," Moulding said, between teaching subjects on tests and subjects not on tests.

Thursday's meeting was the committee's fourth.

The committee posts updates and seeks public input on its Web site, www.solveednow.org.


E-mail: lhancock@desnews.com

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