High-Stakes Testing and the Squeezing of Science Teaching

Because time is not fungible. One of the hidden casualties of the high-stakes testing regime forced on schools such as No Child Left Behind (NCLB), Race to the Top, and Put Your Right Foot in, Put Your Right Foot Out, Do the Hokey Pokey and Shake It All About is that the emphasis of these program on math and reading scores has damaged the rest of the curriculum. Actually, emphasis is the wrong word, since these programs only look at math and reading. According to a 2007 report, “Choices, Changes, and Challenges: Curriculum and Instruction in the NCLB Era“, the effect of high-stakes testing on the amount of time spent on everything other than math and reading has plunged:


While I don’t buy the argument that we have too few scientists (there’s a STEM glut, especially at the PhD level), a basic grounding in science is important. What the above table shows us is that 23 percent of well-performing school districts have reduced the time dedicated to science before the enactment of NCLB; that’s 67 minutes per week. Forty-three percent of poorly-performing districts–who are more likely to be poor or otherwise disadvantaged–have reduced pre-NCLB science instruction time, of an average amount of 94 minutes per week. If science education really is a ticket out, then it is all the more tragic that those in the most need get the least science education.

While it’s obvious that education ‘reformers’ believe that education is largely a worker management issue and has nothing to do with curriculum or pedagogy, I would think even they would realize that massive reductions in classroom time do not lend themselves to increased educational performance.

Actually, that’s probably giving them far too much credit.

But I’m sure this will work out just fine.

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2 Responses to High-Stakes Testing and the Squeezing of Science Teaching

  1. Prof.Pedant says:

    The Stem glut is an indication that we do not have enough jobs for science-trained folks, not that we have too many science-trained folks. It would be like saying that the unemployment rate in the US means we have too many people instead of not enough jobs.

  2. joemac53 says:

    Hear, Hear for Prof. P!
    As far as management goes, each time the admin wanted to increase time for the teachers, it was for meetings, not kid time. I used to lose my cool. I was going to propose a 10% increase in kid time for a 5% raise. Admin quickly figured the related expenses would not be a good deal.

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