In her growing role as an apologist and propagandist for the status quo, per this post and this point:
I don’t buy the argument that cutting other subjects, especially social studies, is an incentive problem here. Rather, it’s a capacity problem. Too few schools are able to deliver a really powerful instructional program today and in the absence of that they do a lot of counterproductive things.
Low capacity schools may be more likely to cut social studies and science than high capacity schools, but NCLB, not low capacity, is the cause of the cuts. After all, low capacity schools taught more social studies and science pre-NCLB than they do now. Even higher capacity schools are affected by incentives – to use the driving parallel, wealthy drivers can handle a more expensive ticket, but many will slow down anyway.
No, it’s not. There is a lot of sleight of hand in that statement. First, No Child Left Behind only requires schools to get kids over relatively modest bars in math and reading — subjects it’s arguably OK to expect schools to teach and subjects that you can also teach while you’re teaching things like social studies and science. In other words, she’s basically saying that requiring schools to teach math and reading means they just have to cut other subjects.* I wouldn’t want to stand on that. Meanwhile, as Charlie Barone pointed out, a lot of schools don’t seem to be having this problem. Why is that? Perhaps it’s because they are focusing on the twin pillars of curriculum and instruction. In addition, while low-capacity schools may have spent time on social studies pre-NCLB, it’s a safe bet that many of them were not teaching it very well, plenty of data on that from state and national assessments. You can’t ignore the problems that pre-date the No Child law when looking at what is happening today.
Bottom line: Overall the issue is that we should worry about the quality of the teaching rather than just the quantity. But this entire conversation, as Eduwonkette’s post indicates, is about the latter.
*She also writes that: One could argue, as many accountability proponents certainly do, that reading and math are more important than science and social studies, or that the test score “gains” that accountability policies yield make these other losses acceptable. I don’t agree with those arguments, but at least they acknowledge what is happening on the ground.
Nice try, but those are strawmen. What some people argue is that math and reading are foundational for learning those other subjects but that’s not the same as what she is saying here. What others, including me, argue is that reading should be integrated into what a school does. E.D. Hirsch has written about that extensively.
Update: Should have also made clear that time is a variable here that educators and policymakers have to think about, too. Time must become a variable in schooling not fixed as it basically is now. Along with using people differently, using time differently is a major challenge facing the education industry today.
Update II: Eduwonkette’s aggrieved partisans are rushing to the comments section and whining, suck it up guys. Lobbing misinformation from behind the veil of anonymity isn’t really straight pool. You may not like my priors, but I don’t hide them. But, there is also a lively debate about the issue down there that you should check out. Couple of thoughts on all that:
Some commenters seem to imply that perhaps cuts to other subjects aren’t happening at all. I did think that the methods underlying the earlier work fueling this issue were pretty shoddy but they’ve improved that and there is enough data on this point that I think we can reasonably conclude that something is going on. The real question, I’d argue and as some commenters also seem to, is whether cuts to other subjects are an inevitable byproduct or merely a counterproductive response that exposes the inability of a lot of schools to deliver really powerful instruction to students?
Re No Child Left Behind, few argue that the law doesn’t have problems. I surely don’t (though I worry that this sort of back and forth minimizes the big issues that need attention (pdf) if the law’s vision, which everyone piously claims to support, has any chance of being a reality). But there has been so much information thrown up, for instance Eduwonkette’s assertion above about the logic model of accountability proponents and the substantial ongoing disinformation campaign against the law, that the public, media, policymakers, and advocates are often confused. That’s worth pushing back on so we can have an honest debate about what is working, what’s not, and what should and shouldn’t be laid at the feet of No Child Left Behind. On this issue, considering how minimal the standards really are in practice, in most cases, people should be outraged when schools cut subjects to meet them, not outraged by the requirements.
Update III: At Core Knowledge Robert Pondiscio weighs-in. Worth reading. But he writes that:
I’m struck by Eduwonk’s self-described bottom line: “Overall the issue is that we should worry about the quality of the teaching rather than just the quantity,” he opines. “But this entire conversation, as Eduwonkette’s post indicates, is about the latter.” To frame the issue as quality vs. quantity of teaching is to remain silent on the quality and quantity of the curriculum. Forgive me from straying from the standard homily about a good teacher being the most important factor in student achievement. A good teacher delivering a bad curriculum is, I believe, no more effective than a bad teacher delivering a good curriculum. The content being taught matters at least as much as how well it’s being taught, and both matter more than how much of it is being taught.
I don’t disagree at all and thought that making that “bottom-line” point on the heels of a discussion about the “twin pillars of curriculum and instruction” made that obvious.
Also, KDRosa is on this, too.