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Comprehensive Curriculum

Why we need to provide all students with a comprehensive curriculum that includes social studies, foreign languages, the arts, music, and more -- rather than focusing narrowly on preparing students for standardized tests in reading and math.




"In my school, the staff is so worried about closing the achievement gap for the students, it is becoming the norm to have academic after school groups. On rotating days, the students stay for one-and-a-half hours to review and learn math and reading skills. The idea looks good on paper, but it has cut into our arts programs, limiting the music, art, and drama groups to only a few students. For chorus or band, this is not a good thing.

"It seems to the children who are in the after school math and reading groups that they will never measure up to the other students who are in the chorus. The performing groups have become the elite bunch in the school.

"For many of the slower achievers, the arts are what keep them interested in coming to school. It may be just the motivation they need to stay in school and succeed in other areas. We had a student who was labeled as 'troubled' from his elementary school, and he was placed in the school chorus his first year in the middle school. His behavior changed both in school and at home. His mother got more involved in his academic education, and the student went on to the high school and was very popular and successful.

"With NCLB, pulling students from arts classes should not be a remedy for making sure all students learn together. The problem with NCLB is that all children do not achieve at the same time. They are not all on the same page when it comes to learning. All students will learn what they need to become successful, but they will do it at their own pace. NCLB must make sure all students start at the same level in order to achieve what needs to be done. We must all make sure the resources are in place for the development of the whole child. To lose any of our classes just to ensure that one program works the way the government wants it to is not an option.

"Leave the education to the ones who are in the trenches and work every day with the students who need them. We do know what we are doing, and we can help all students become smart, successful, productive citizens for the future."

Ina Allen
Music Teacher
Evanston Dist #65
Chicago, Illinois

 

"As a music educator, I am used to advocating for my program when budgets are trimmed or staff is cut. But since the reauthorization of ESEA, the targeting of arts programs has been redoubled. NCLB's primary focus on math and reading has led to arts programs nationwide becoming less and less important or being completely removed from the curriculum. Three years ago, we lost our elementary instrumental music program program and 9 of 23 instrumental music teachers in the EVSC. I am constantly told that standards for core subjects are more important than my own and that I have to incorporate them into my already fully developed curriculum.

"Meanwhile, research showing the positive effects of the arts on student achievement continues to pile up. While it is a proven fact that students who participate in the arts perform better in other subject areas, schools are cutting their programs in an effort to meet the testing demands of ESEA. It's time to change the law so that the full needs of all children are met!"

Lynn Corum
Education Major
Leavenworth
Lansing, Kansas

 

"Because ESEA testing focuses solely on reading, math, and now science, all available time and money is spent on only these subjects. All other areas, especially the creative arts, are being cut and ignored. Students are not being given opportunities to have a well-rounded education. Employers require employees who can think outside the box. We are not preparing students for the 21st century job market. We are now only preparing our kids to pass the test, so the school doesn't lose funding.

"Because the AYP requirements are so slanted, my school was labeled a failing school. It was not because the school's population didn't pass the tests; we did, but one subgroup didn't pass one year, and a different subgroup didn't pass the next year. Both of those subgroups had fewer than 20 students in them. Our school was not failing; in reality, it was fewer than 20 students who caused the whole school to be labeled failing.

"It is this environment that fosters the belief that we only have time to teach the three subjects that will be tested on ESEA. Our students deserve better than that. Our students deserve a balanced, well-rounded, complete education. Please work with Nebraska to see this happens in the reauthorization of ESEA."

Melissa Dirks
Art Teacher
Frederick County Public Schools
Hagerstown, Maryland

 

"In our district, 70 percent of our elementary school instructional time is devoted to math and reading. This leaves only 30 percent for everything else. We are cutting back on PE, art, library time, music, social studies, and more.

The current ESEA language is taking the joy out of school for our kids and making it into a reading/math-only environment."

Paul EveryHope
High School Teacher
Mount Vernon
Bellingham, WA

 

"As an elementary school physical educator, I know that physical education is the most important subject in school. A healthy body is key to a healthy mind. Unfortunately, NCLB's unintended consequences are the lack of time and importance placed on physical education in our schools. Our country is already witnessing an increase in childhood illnesses, such as juvenile diabetes and childhood obesity.

"With the emphasis on high-stakes testing in reading, math, writing, and (soon) science, schools have been forced to cut programs that ensure the health of our nation's future to create more time to study for the tests. This is a crime.

"We owe our children a healthy future. We owe our great country a healthy future. Please revise NCLB to accomplish this. Thank you."

Cindy Lou Aillaud
Elementary School Physical Education Teacher
Delta/Greely
Delta Junction, Alaska

"As a college educator, I have been watching and listening with great concern as I hear K-12 educators talk about the detrimental effects of ESEA. As I hear more and more stories of programs, such as band/orchestra/choir, speech/debate, art, PE, photography, and foreign languages being cut to allow more resources and time for teaching to standardized tests, I have been dreading the day, down the road, when those students will enter my classroom at the college level.

 I know that such programs contribute greatly to critical-thinking skills, collaborative-working skills, goal-setting skills, and other essential skills that students need to be successful at the college level.

"Much to my surprise and horror, that day has come much sooner than I anticipated. A colleague recently shared that this is the first year in over 20 years of teaching that not one student in her large lecture section had taken a foreign language in high school.

"Where will our country be in 15 years, as the first complete NCLB generation fills all of our college classrooms?"

Sally Pestana
Professor
Kapiolani Community College
 Honolulu, HI