CIRCLE (The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement)
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The Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement

The k-12 Curriculum in the Era of NCLB

December 2008

Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service, Medford, MA: Despite public belief to the contrary, schools are not shifting away from teaching social studies, liberal arts, and sciences directly because of the pressures of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), according to a new study released by Tisch College’s Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) at Tufts University. In fact, at the middle and high school levels, curricula have remained constant and in some cases expanded since the federal law was passed in 2001.

CIRCLE analyzed five major federal datasets looking at the how curricula and relevant extracurricular activities have changed at the elementary, middle and high school levels from 1987 to 2005. Funded by the Ford Foundation, the full report is entitled Narrower at the Base: The American Curriculum After NCLB. Click to read the full study in PDF format.

In grades one through five, the curriculum has narrowed over the last ten years, with more time devoted to reading and math and less to science, arts, and social studies. These declines, however, began in the 1990s before the passage of NCLB. The trends are the same in private and public schools and in schools with majorities of white and minority students.

It would also be expected that new teachers would be influenced by current expectations and pressures to emphasize English and math, whereas veteran teachers would more likely maintain teaching priorities from their early days in education. The study found the reverse is true, with newer teachers providing a broader curriculum.

Even though the k-12 curriculum has not narrowed consistently, and even though NCLB is not mainly responsible for the narrowing that has occurred, the curricula may still be too narrow to prepare young people for citizenship. Extracurricular activities such as music, drama, student journalism, and student government, are also too rare.

Suggested citation: Levine, P., Lopez, M.H., and Marcelo, K.B. 2008. Getting Narrower at the Base: The American Curriculum after NCLB. CIRCLE (The Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning & Engagement) , via http://www.civicyouth.org/?p=325

Download the press release.

123 Responses to “The k-12 Curriculum in the Era of NCLB”

  1. Johnathon Says:

    I think that the idea to organaise No Child Left Behind Act is really helpfull and is worth of means spent on it. I hope that really none of the children won’t be left alone with his\her problems! God bless what you are doing

  2. Dwight Says:

    Completely agree with you that at the middle and high school levels, curricula have remained constant and in some cases expanded since the federal law was passed.And it’s a pity that schools are not shifting away from teaching social studies, liberal arts, and sciences.

  3. Mike Crabe Says:

    Even though the k-12 curriculum has not narrowed consistently, and even though NCLB is not mainly responsible for the narrowing that has occurred, the curricula may still be too narrow to prepare young people for citizenship. Extracurricular activities such as music, drama, student journalism, and student government, are also too rare. Totally my words mate, it is important to let everybody else see the stuff you write about here.

  4. retractable badge holder Says:

    It would also be expected that new teachers would be influenced by current expectations and pressures to emphasize English and math, whereas veteran teachers would more likely maintain teaching priorities from their early days in education. The study found the reverse is true, with newer teachers providing a broader curriculum. I think this is going to be a great move

  5. Max Says:

    NCLB must be improved I suppose.

  6. ezinez Says:

    The press release is very great, lots of useful informations and easy to understand.
    Thanks.

  7. Johnny Edgars Says:

    Kids need to be taught practical things. They have no idea how to leverage their education in the real world. Most kids get out of school and have no idea even how to rent an apartment, let alone keeping America at the forefront of innovation. Something is wrong.

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    yes it was kind of ironic that no child left behind… let a trough slip through the gaps. good to see it is improving though

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    I believe that our curriculum must not remain stagnant. Our society is constantly evolving towards an advanced place to live in. Hence, by constantly adapting the school curriculum to such, we are giving our youth a solid foundation.

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    I think right now we struggle with NCLB. The real problems is funding; where is the support?
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  13. retractable badge holder Says:

    This research is very important. I wonder how the decline in science can impact our nation’s competitive advantage. Isn’t research and innovation a key reason of why our economy is successful?

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    NCLB is a tool for the youth of today to grow by, issues will arise in all of our lives. I find the majority find minimal interest in our government.

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    It’s very important to revive extracurricular activities especially student journalism…

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    While I agree Reading and Math should be core focuses, I’m not sure shifting away from Science and the Arts is such a great thing. Though I have always felt that Social Studies carried too much emphasis. Though it’s important to learn history, it has little value (besides moral) in the real world. That is, unless you’re planning to write a book or become a teacher or historian.

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    Here in Thailand are extracurricular activities standard as the basic education isn’t good at all.

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    Reading and math should be a core focus. However in order to improve this beyond the very base level into a certain level interpretation. The social subjects are vital to take reading ability to develop greater level of understanding and interpretation.

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  28. Don Bradley Says:

    great to see this has started happening.Don

  29. ceh Says:

    I’m not sure shifting away from Science and the Arts is such a great thing. Though I have always felt Social Studies carried too much emphasis.

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    Young people are pretty savvy these days when it come to the lastest ways of the world They need to have strong values to get to were they want to be Don Brad

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    Although the K-12 curriculum has not been reduced steadily, and although the NCLB law is not primarily responsible for the declines that have occurred, the curriculum may still be too narrow to prepare young people for citizenship . Extracurricular activities such as music, theater, journalism student and student government are also rare.

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  122. Peter Levine: Why we need civic education « Education News Colorado Opinion & Commentary Says:

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