The Washington Post colors a highly misleading article on NCLB's narrowing effects on non-reading and non-math subjects, such as art, in elementary schools.
It was all art, all morning at the Montgomery County school, casting a local spotlight on a national reality: that art is often squeezed out of the curriculum by the academic rigors of the No Child Left Behind law.
Her sentiments echoed a report released last month by the Washington-based Center on Education Policy, which found that many elementary schools across the country have allotted more time to reading and math by cutting time for social studies, science, art and physical education. The issue of "curriculum narrowing" has become a key part of the debate over reauthorizing the 2002 federal law, which is designed to improve reading and math proficiency. (emphasis mine)
According to WaPO, art is "often squeezed out of the curriculum" by NCLB.
Often! Often? What percentage of schools do you think WaPo considers to be "often"? 2/3rds? 3/4ths?
According to the CEP report the percentage of schools that have reduced instruction time Post-NCLB is a whopping -- wait for it -- 16%.
I've heard that 40 is the new 30, but I didn't realize that 16% was the new often.
And, the category is "art and music" not just art. These 16% of schools could have cut either music or art or both.
Now let me give you some actual data from the CEP report, which WaPo fails to do
84% of schools didn't cut any time from music and art.
2.9% cut less than 25 minutes per week.
3.8% cut between 25 and 29 minutes.
4.3% cut between 50 and 74 minutes.
4.5% cut between 75 and 149 minutes.
0.5% cut more than 150 minutes.
For those schools (16%) that did cut time, the pre-NCLB time spent on art and music instruction was 154 minutes a week. The post-NCLB time was 100 minutes. So, on average, about 54 minutes per week was cut from art and music instruction per week. The report doesn't tell us how much instructional time the 84% of schools who didn't cut instructional time for art and music. Maybe it was already less than 154 minutes.
I also like the way they picked as their poster child the North Chevy Chase Elementary School, in Montgomery County, Maryland where over 93% of the children are testing at the proficient level. Why not pick a DC school where over half of fourth graders tested at the "below basic" level on the 2007 NAEP test? Certainly, these illiterate and innumerate kids need to maximize their instructional time in art and music since there's little hope of them graduating with the ability to read above the fifth grade level. Assuming they graduate at all.
Then we have this gratuitous comment:
Fourth-grade teacher Jackie Moore considered it a protest against a decline in public school arts education attributable to budget cuts and a focus on standardized test scores spurred by the federal law.
Whenever some educator claims that there's been budget cuts you can rest assured they are either a) misinformed, b) lying, or c) both. According to school matters not only has Montgomery county not seen budget cuts, their total expenditures have been steadily rising from $11,262 in 2003 to $13,785 in 2005. I'd bet that they're spending close to $15,000 per year now based on that trend.
And then there's this:
Moore decided a half-day of drawing would highlight how little art instruction students usually receive. She thinks that art helps students learn while improving concentration and observation skills but that there's no longer time to have her classes sew colonial embroidery samplers or create Native American jewelry and pottery.
She thinks; she doesn't know. Surely there must be some evidence she can point to in which these artist-students use their superior "concentration and observation skills" to improve academic outcomes in other academic subjects. Otherwise, all they've learned is how to sew embroidery samples and create Native American Jewelry and pottery, two high-growth jobs in the DC area.
This article is bad, even for WaPo.
Update: Kevin Carey has similar thoughts and even stresses a point I made back when the curriculum narrowing debate first surfaced:
The 16% of districts that cut art in favor of reading and math didn't necessarily make a bad choice, unless you think that all districts had, pre-NCLB, miraculously arrived at the precise optimal mix of subjects and time. Reducing time for art in order to ensure that elementary school student can read might be exactly the kind of hard decision those students need.
It's hard to argue that pre-NCLB had the optimal mix considering the rampant amount of academic failure.
AFTie John OTOH apparently thinks that 16% qualifies as "often," though he doesn't provide much of a supporting argument.
Update II: AFTie John responds: "Well, a little extrapolating and back-of-the-envelope arithmetic suggests that 4 million students (16% of ~ 25 million public K-6 students) are missing more than 30 hours of art instruction per year. "
As long as we're pulling a Fermi, my back-of -the envelope calculation is that 8.25 million students (33% of ~ 25 million) are performing at the below-basic level in reading and 5.5 million in math. Are we really getting up in arms that these kids get an hour less finger-painting and macaroni collage time per week in favor of some additional time actually learning how to read and do basic math?