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NCLB Rewrite Expands Definition of 'Core Subjects,' Sparks Testing Outcry

The Senate draft of the rewritten No Child Left Behind Act adds writing, music, computer science, technology, and physical education to the list of disciplines it defines as "core academic subjects."

That shift, buried deep in the 601-page Every Child Achieves Act, which was released yesterday, appears to be something of a response to the years-old debate about NCLB's curriculum-narrowing effect. It was greeted with jubilation at the National Association for Music Education, for instance, which issued a glowing press release noting the inclusion of music in the law's list of core subjects.

Here's No Child Left Behind's list of core academic subjects. You'll find it on page 534 of the PDF, as part of Title IX.

"The term 'core academic subjects' means English, reading or language arts, mathematics, science, foreign languages, civics and government, economics, arts, history, and geography."

Here's the Every Child Achieves Act's definition, which you'll see on page 529 of the bipartisan draft, released yesterday. 

"The term 'core academic subjects' means English, reading or language arts, writing, science, technology, engineering, mathematics, foreign languages, civics and government, economics, arts, history, geography, computer science, music, and physical education, and any other subject as determined by the state or local educational agency."

Critics of the testing regimen that No Child Left Behind created will, of course, be quick to argue that simply expanding the list of core academic subjects is unlikely to have a broadening effect on the curriculum, since the only subjects with required tests are English/language arts, math, and science.

Those who advocate significant cutbacks in mandated testing were pretty unhappy with yesterday's draft, since it retains the same assessment schedule as No Child Left Behind. FairTest and other assessment activists, in fact, have declared today a "day of action," urging its followers to swamp their senators with demands for an ESEA rewrite draft that specifies fewer tests. In a mass email, the groups offered a list of senators' phone numbers and Twitter handles, and a model message that testing opponents can use to express their hopes for a rewritten draft.

It has also organized a "Twitter storm" for 1 p.m. Eastern time today, inviting those who oppose the NCLB testing requirements to create an upsurge of opposition under the hashtag #CutFedTests.


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