Teachers have felt tied up in knots, for more than a decade, due to the threat of No Child Left Behind, NCLB, sanctions for failing to meet unrealistic proficiency levels.
Secretary of Education John B. King writes: “States now have the opportunity to broaden their definition of educational excellence, to include providing students strong learning experiences in science, social studies, world languages, and the arts, as well as, AP, and International Baccalaureate classes. And even supporting students’ socio-emotional development, that is a huge and welcome change.”
Every Student Succeeds Act, ESSA, opens up many opportunities for states and local school districts to develop curriculum programs for a “well-rounded education” for all students. The term “well-rounded” appears 24 times in the law, and includes everything from arts, physical education, science, civics and government, music and foreign languages – all of which are programs eligible for federal funding under ESSA.
First introduced in 1994 as part of the Educate America Act, the term “core academic subjects” covered nine subject areas in which students were expected to demonstrate competency over challenging subject matter. The core academic subjects included in this definition were: English, mathematics, science, foreign languages, civics and government, economics, arts, history and geography.
According to the Education Commission of the States, Your Policy Team, June 2016, lawmakers expanded this definition by shifting from core academic subjects to a well-rounded education to include 17 subjects covering the commonly tested subjects of English language arts and mathematics; as well as, a w...
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...hers to explore topics and dig deep into the material, because there was little flexibility due to the high-stakes of the dominant testing requirements and the narrow range of core curriculum classes offered in schools.
The whole point of the law is to empower educators and students to refocus on teaching and learning in the classroom with greater flexibility to revise their own accountability systems. Teachers now do not have to feel like they cannot provide instruction in curriculum that is broad and rich in content, not just reading and math, because they are empowered to explore the arts, civics, engineering, and hands-on technical coursework with students. The broaden curriculum access will increase student engagement, and allow more flexibility for teachers to provide students with learning opportunities for advanced coursework, college and career readiness.
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