No Child Left Behind downsizes curriculum extras

Posted 1:15pm May 3

by Nell McGarity
U-WIRE Washington Bureau

Curriculums that do not fall under the testing requirements of the No Child Left Behind stand as the next victims to be cut in an effort to fund the program, which emphasizes increasing learning achievement and equity through testing children on reading and math.

The program, which has been one of the main points of President Bush’s domestic agenda, seeks to eliminate the disparity of learning achievement of students of varying backgrounds. The program emphasizes basic math and reading comprehension and skills, and is not completely funded under Title I, which it is a component of.

“NCLB is largely funded through Title I, which targets dollars to high poverty students. This is by far the largest segment of funding with in NCLB at $12.4 billion for FY 04.In FY 05, President Bush called for a $1 billion increase for Title I, but overall that just equates to $448 million increase for NCLB when you take into account his cuts of programs,” said Mary Kusler, vice president of Committee for Education Funding.

To this end, programs stand to be eliminated in an effort to fund the program.

“With the exception of Arts in education, which the president proposed to eliminate, most of the other programs being eliminated have nothing to do with art and music. Instead these programs focus on student services, etc. such as school counseling and dropout prevention. NCLB is just one aspect of what schools should be doing. In an ideal world, their reach would be wider,” said Kusler.

The implications of these program cuts on students are hard to determine.

“It is difficult to give concrete data on the impact of cuts to music and art will be. Regardless there is a concern that the over focus on math and reading in NCLB will force school districts to narrow their curriculums as they determine what are the best ways to spend their precious dollars. There is a limited pot of available funding for unending needs,” said Kusler.

“Focusing on the basics will help them learn in other areas, but we can not take away focus from the importance of a well balanced child,” said Kusler.

Those who work within educational enrichment, like the Breakthrough Collaborative, who works with low-income middle school students agree.

“A lot is being lost along the way and a lot is being asked for of other educational services that focus beyond math and literacy and test taking,” said the Breakthrough Collaborative’s Laura Pochop.

“We see [NCLB] through the kids. They have less hands on project type learning, spend less time on problem solving skills, and we have to fill with things that they are not able to access at school,” said Pochop. Though there is criticism of NCLB, Pochop noted the positives of the program.

“Its recognition is really good. It doesn’t measure on the average, it looks at all kinds to ensure all kids are encouraged to achieve,” she said.

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