The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act’s narrow focus on student achievement in English language arts and mathematics has been a point of contention since the law’s enactment, and it has become especially problematic in more recent years with the increased interest in college, career, and citizenship-ready students.
That is why educators were so disappointed that the original Harkin-Enzi ESEA reauthorization bill did not include provisions to support other core academic subjects that result in a more well-rounded education. The exclusion was as disappointing as it was surprising given that the Obama administration’s blueprint―upon which the Harkin-Enzi bill’s framework was patterned―includes such a section (PDF).
Fortunately, this oversight was corrected thanks to a Senate Education Committee-approved amendment by Senator Robert Casey (D-PA) (with the strong backing of Chairman Tom Harkin [D-IA]) that establishes a grant program for the arts, civics and government, economics, environmental education, financial literacy, foreign languages, geography, health education, history, physical education, and social studies.
The Casey amendment is a crucial first step in greater federal recognition of the importance of all core academic subjects to students’ lifelong success. Nevertheless, more needs to be done to assure that the federal K–12 policy expands access, testing, and accountability options to include all subjects. ASCD is grateful to Senator Casey for his support and thank him and Chairman Harkin for their leadership in seeking to create a more well-rounded education for students.
ASCD is part of the college, career, and citizenship-ready coalition of more than 36 national education organizations that is committed to affirming the purpose and vital nature of a well-rounded education. We are advocating for discrete funding streams for each of the subject disciplines as well as promotion of core subjects throughout the bill’s assessment, accountability, and public reporting requirements.
Undergirding our recommendations is the belief that any true definition of college, career, and citizenship readiness should not be confined merely to proficiency in reading and math; it must include all core academic subjects and the comprehensive knowledge and abilities required of students after high school graduation.
Collecting and reporting student achievement data in all core academic subjects offers schools, districts, and students the opportunity to demonstrate achievement by using multiple measures of performance and empowers parents to hold schools accountable for a complete education that is, after all, the ultimate goal for our students’ and our nation’s success.