Ed Secretary John King, Jr. Calls for ‘Well-Rounded’ Education

(Photo: United States Department of Education, Creative Commons)

(Photo: United States Department of Education, Creative Commons)

Education Secretary John King, Jr. has said that the controversial No Child Left Behind Act created during George W. Bush’s presidency emphasized math and reading, but often at the expense of other subjects. Now, King is expected to get behind what he called in a speech at the Las Vegas Academy of Arts this week “a well-rounded education.”

Meanwhile, public officials and civilians are wrestling to draft the regulations needed for the Every Student Succeeds Act, which in December was passed to take the place of No Child Left Behind.

The Huffington Post’s Rebecca Klein reports that the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) will keep the standardized test schedule of every child from third through eighth grade and once in high school, when they will take tests in math and reading. Students will also continue taking standardized tests in science three times between third and 12th grades.

But now, instead of schools being responsible for students’ scores, states will set the goals for which they will be held accountable. King is hopeful that this change will allow schools to attempt to reach a broader sense of educational excellence.

On Thursday, King said social studies, the arts, and world languages must not be minimized. He added that President Obama’s emphasis on teaching computer science would continue to be a priority.

“The evidence doesn’t show a vast, nationwide abandonment of subjects outside of math and English language arts, but there is a lot of reason to believe that students are not getting the instruction in science, social studies, the arts and world languages that they need,” King said. “Strong literacy and math skills are surely necessary for success in college, careers and life — but they just as surely are not sufficient.”

King echoed both his predecessor Arne Duncan and President Obama by saying that in many schools testing has become “excessive, redundant, and overemphasized.” He added that his department’s new instructions on leveraging federal funds will broaden offerings of science, engineering, math, and technology in schools, writes Jim Myers of the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

King continued by saying when students have an extensive range of subjects which are taught in a compelling and creative manner, education can make the difference between “disengagement and a lifelong passion for learning.”

Rather than judging a child’s progress by only testing math and science performance, states will now be allowed to include additional areas such as a student’s achievement in other subject areas and whether students can incorporate advanced coursework into their educational planning.

Critics of No Child Left Behind were upset with the Obama administration for pushing the use of students’ scores as an evaluation tool for teachers. But King objected to that charge, saying the President’s efforts always focused on a holistic approach to teacher assessments, according to Emma Brown of The Washington Post.

ESSA also encourages states to review the number, effectiveness, and quality of any tests given beyond the federally required annual state exams. They were also permitted to do away with any tests that duplicated material or were deemed unnecessary.