A new federal law could give children the opportunity to receive a more well-rounded education. At least, that's the theme of a speech United States Education Secretary John King gave Thursday in Las Vegas on the Every Student Succeeds Act, the successor to the No Child Left Behind law.
Gone are the strict requirements that often caused teachers to focus too much on math and reading, and here to stay are rules that allow states and districts to develop more flexible academic goals — and teach kids a wide variety of subjects.
"It's a great chance to right the balance in places where the learning focus has become too narrow — and to do so in ways that expand, not dilute, civil rights," King said, according to prepared remarks provided to Politico. "Because the simple fact is, every kid in this country needs and deserves access to the subjects that go into being a well-educated person. Music and art; world languages; physics, chemistry and biology; social studies, civics, geography and government; physical education and health; coding and computer science — these aren’t luxuries that are nice to have. They’re what it means to be ready for today’s world."
King, who became education secretary in January after Arne Duncan stepped down, added that he thought standardized testing had become excessive in many parts of the U.S. in recent years. The new law doesn't eliminate these requirements, but it does give local schools more control over how they prepare students and how the test results are used, the Huffington Post reported.
That could mean more flexibility in what topics teachers introduce.
"Strong literacy and math skills are surely necessary for success in college, careers, and life — but they just as surely are not sufficient," King said. "Being a well-educated person and passionate about learning isn't just about reading and computing well. It's about being skilled and knowledgeable about a wide range of subjects, expert and passionate about a few and confident in the quest for more knowledge."
Negotiated rulemaking on the Every Student Succeeds Act started last month. But it hasn't been too smooth so far: King has already been criticized by Republicans and various education groups for allegedly trying to set too many limits on how districts spend money earmarked for low-income students, USA Today reported.