Curriculum Shrinks as Scores Rise

K-12 Testing

No Child Left Behind (NCLB) proponents point to rising state test scores as evidence of the law’s benefits to students, but evidence is mounting that school curricula suffers when the focus is limited to raising scores in math and English.


The National Council for History Education (NCHE), the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS), and a Maryland state social studies task force have all weighed in recently about the loss of time and resources devoted to history and social studies as a result of NCLB. Earlier, reports from the Council for Basic Education and the National Association of State Boards of Education documented losses to social studies, history, art, music and physical education due to pressure from NCLB (see Examiner, Fall 2004), particularly for low-income students.


Princeton history professor Theodore K. Rabb, a board member of the NCHE, explained, “It is clear that, with some notable exceptions nationwide, the amount of class time given to history, especially in the first eight grades, has been shrinking almost by the month.” NCHE is circulating a statement signed by historians and educators on “A Crisis in History.” The statement marks the launch of a larger campaign to publicize the problem. NCSS is also campaigning around the issue and offers an Advocacy Tool Kit for those who seek to remedy the problem.


NCSS spokesman Al Frascella said, “The message being read by the local school districts, state school boards and superintendents is it [social studies] is not important because the law didn’t include it. What isn’t tested isn’t taught, and we are seeing that all across the country.”


Other reports and surveys have concluded curriculum and instruction often are reduced to test preparation, even in the untested subjects. FairTest’s report on NCLB, Failing Our Children, summarizes much of this research.


• The NCSS tool kit is available at NCHE’s statement is at

• Contact information for the Maryland Social Studies Task Force is at

• Failing Our Children is available at