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Debate Over Curriculum Narrowing Continues


The argument that NCLB is narrowing the curriculum is not going away. Here are two items:

1. The congressional sponsors of the FIT Kids Act plan to re-introduce their bill this week. The House bill would require schools to schedule daily physical education and set a goal of providing 150 minutes a week of gym for elementary students and 225 minutes a week for secondary students. The bill also would require schools, districts, and states to report on the quality of their systems. The bill had a long list of co-sponsors in the last Congress and the support of American Heart Association. Fitness guru Richard Simmons testified for the bill at a House hearing. Here's my account and one with video from The Washington Post.

2.) The Government Accountability Office has issued a report finding that 7 percent of schools reduced the amount of time given to arts education between 2004-05 and 2006-07. The decline was the steepest in schools serving high percentages of minority students and those that have failed to make AYP for two years. Here is one page of highlights.

One important tidbit from the GAO report: The Department of Education is underwriting research that may provide a more in-depth look at how schools are allocating instructional time. But will it be done in time to influence the next version of NCLB?


The GAO report on arts education was done on the cheap and asked the wrong questions, of the wrong people, including staff at state arts councils who have absolutely no authority over arts education policies in schools. In fact, if data were no availabe from state eductionofficials, that should have been reported, and the headline. Data-mining everywhere and not much in the arts? The GAO report also did something strange. Although it was supposed to be addressing instructional time in school, it concluded that it would be OK next time to look at after school art programs as if these were equivalent to instruction in school. This is a form of curriculum gerrymandering that serves the interests of an arts bureaucracy that feeds its budgetary bottom line in the degree that arts education is not routinely offered in schools and by certified teachers of art. Arts councils love to book underemployed artists into schools and after-school programs for part-time gigs, and claim huge amounts of credit for "saving the arts in schools." I hope you will look at the forthcoming results of the NAEP tests in the arts, and those form the last round just before NCLB. These tests are only administered at the eighth grade--cost too much, but they may have better comparative data than the GAO report, including background information on instruction. The GAO report does not even make a gesture to the National Center of Education Statistics reports on access. The GAO results are also less informative than recent studies conducted by the Center for Educational Policy. The GAO does not tell us anything about instructional time allocations by grade levels, or by art forms taught, and much else that bears on policies. Solid research from multiple sources points to less opportunity for studies in the arts in schools and in after-school programs for students who are classified a living in poverty and members of minority groups. In this respect, the GAO study has added nothing to what has been known for a number of years.

The California Curriculum Correlating Council is a federation of the majority of the professional education associations in California. (www.ca4cs.net)

After 2 years of study, the following White Paper was approved for dissemination at the annual Education Summit:


1. The curriculum must be broadened to provide choices of further education and careers, including technical and workplace education, to motivate all students to stay in school to meet their academic, personal, and career goals.

The member associations of the 4Cs advocate:
• Balancing the allotment of instructional time to allow access to both liberal arts and applied arts for all students;
• Integrating instruction across the curriculum at the elementary level;
• Increasing student access to rigorous and relevant electives and CTE/applied subjects in middle school and high school;
• Recognizing the growth and importance of skills in information technology.

2. Members from California’s professional education associations possessing both content knowledge and pedagogical expertise must be included as participants and writers in necessary revisions of curriculum frameworks and content standards.

The member associations of the 4Cs advocate:
• Revising the California Content Standards to reflect national and industry standards;
• Revising the California Content Standards to support longitudinal and cross-disciplinary alignments.

3. The system of student assessment and school accountability must be improved through the use of more diverse assessments and fairer measures of student achievement as well as better timing and rapid reporting of results to support success for all students.

The member associations of the 4Cs advocate:
• Creating one assessment system instead of the API/AYP duality;
• Developing a first semester testing calendar with rapid reporting, so assessments can be formative as well as evaluative.
• Developing multiple measures of student achievement and eliminating the testing of students in 2nd grade;
• Administering tests written in English to students verified as English-proficient.

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Recent Comments

  • Brad Huff, Chair, California Curriculum Correlating Council: The California Curriculum Correlating Council is a federation of the read more
  • L H Chapman: The GAO report on arts education was done on the read more



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