EDUCATION SECRETARY ARNE Duncan has said the single biggest complaint he's received about the No Child Left BehindAct (NCLB) is how the law's emphasis on reading and math has led to a narrowing of the curriculum. At a recent event at the National Press Club, he agreed with NCLB's shortcomings related to other core subjects, saying, "I don't think art is an extra; I don't think social studies is an extra; I don't think PE is an extra. [These subjects] give students a reason to be engaged and come to school.... Making sure every student has access to a well-rounded education is hugely important."
At ASCD (formerly the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development), we couldn't agree more. Indeed, our Whole Child Initiative is predicated on the comprehensiveness of health, social and education services for children--including a complete and engaging curriculum. We believe math and language arts are fundamental to learning, but other core subjects are just as critical to success in higher education and employment, and to promoting an active and engaged citizenry.
Does Obama Support it?
Secretary Duncan's words indicate support for comprehensive education, and the Obama administration has backed up those words with dollars: Its FY 2011 budget request includes a $38.9 million (or 17 percent) increase in funding to support teaching and learning in the arts, history, civics, foreign languages, geography and economics. However, the budget request proposes to combine eight subject-specific grant programs into a single competitive grant program that would pit these subjects against each other for resources. Such an approach could threaten district leaders' wishes to provide each student with a well-rounded education. Furthermore, President Obama's blueprint for reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) equates college and career readiness with mastery of English language arts and mathematics standards, continuing to prioritize these two subjects at the expense of all others.
As part of ASCD's ESEA reauthorization efforts, we convened a diverse group of organizations from a wide array of subject areas to develop recommendations for how the federal government can better support a well-rounded education for each child. …