Teachers Say the Curriculum is Being Narrowed by Testing

A national survey of teachers in the United States has found that some core subjects have been effectively abandoned as a result of increased testing of literacy and mathematics.

According to most teachers, schools are narrowing curriculum, shifting teaching time and resources toward math and language arts and away from subjects such as art, music, foreign language, and social studies. Most of the teachers surveyed believe that state tests in math and language arts are driving curriculum narrowing. They say that the testing regimen has penetrated school culture and caused vast changes in day-to-day teaching.

Two-thirds (66%) said that academic subjects other than reading and math get crowded out by extra attention being paid to math or language arts. Most teachers said that maths and language arts are the only subjects getting more attention. In contrast, about half of those surveyed said art (51%) and music (48%) get less attention, with 40% saying the same for foreign language, 36% for social studies, and 27% for science.

The narrowing of the curriculum is greatest in elementary (primary) schools. The vast majority (81%) of elementary school teachers reported that other subjects are getting crowded out by extra time devoted to maths or language arts. Over 60% of middle school teachers and 54% of high school teachers said that this was happening in their schools.

Among all teachers who say crowding out is taking place in their schools, virtually all (93%) believe that this is largely driven by state tests in maths and language arts. Sixty per cent said that more class time has been devoted to test-taking skills in recent years.

The survey was conduct by an independent survey firm who was responsible for the interpretation and analysis of the results. It was commissioned by Common Core, a Washington-based research and advocacy group that has long raised concerns about the impact of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act on the curriculum.

“During the past decade, our public schools have focused – almost exclusively – on reading and math instruction, hoping to fulfil the latest in federal mandates,” said Lynne Munson, President and Executive Director of Common Core. She said that the federal law “clearly identifies our ‘core curriculum’ as reading, math, science, social studies, and even the arts,” but says many of these subjects have been “abandoned” in the pursuit of higher reading and maths scores.

“As a result, we are denying our students the complete education they deserve and the law demands”, she said.

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