Once upon a time, in a school district in a faraway galaxy, a pitched battle was taking place. Close your eyes and imagine that you were there–cause some of you were.
Picture helpless little elementary school science cowering before GIMONGOUS READING & MATH. Picture mighty GR&M getting stronger and more powerful day by day, week by week. Picture the monstrously huge and powerful GR&M creature expanding and growing and spreading. Picture the invincible GR&M opening its wide, wide mouth. Picture little science being surrounded bit by helpless bit, by the lips and teeth of the indomitable GR&M. Watch in horror as the giant tongue flicks out and sweeps little science deep into its cavernous jaws, and in an instant, science is gone.
Gone, Baby, gone.
This is one way of portraying what happened earlier in this decade with the onslaught of No Child Left Behind (NCLB—the common nickname for the Elementary and Secondary Education Act or ESEA) and the potential threat of AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress). In many schools and districts, the powers that be soon realized that much of the testing and data-gathering for rating and ranking schools focused almost universally on reading and math skills and scores. And so, many were cowed into giving more and more time and greater emphasis to fewer and fewer subjects. Tales were told of district mandates to limit science to 20-30 minutes every other day. Teachers spoke of principals commanding that science be foresworn until 4th and 5th grades. School admins admonished teachers who continued to instruct the forbidden subject. (OK—I know it’s hokey. I’m trying to create a little drama here.)
[You can forget about poor little Social Studies; it never got much attention anyway—certainly not the attention it deserved. GR&M just set it aside for a late night snack. Social Studies never got a multi-million dollar grant. SS hasn’t had many corporate or business or technology champions. Our state standards for SS were on the right track with four important strands—history, civics, geography, and economics–but the programs were not built out, resourced, or supported by GLE’s like the other core subjects were.]
Anyway, back to the story,…
Oh, sorry kids, time for bed. Tomorrow night we can follow up with a story that I’ll call “How You Can Enhance Reading and Math Instruction by Engaging Kids in Science.”