Secretary King Urges Schools to Go Back to a Well-Rounded Education

On Thursday, April 14 U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. spoke at the Las Vegas Academy of the Arts about the importance of a well-rounded education, including not only the typical courses, but also subjects like the arts and world languages. In his speech he called on state and district officials to “support school leaders in providing teachers with the resources, professional development, and most importantly, the time to develop well-rounded curricula.” Moreover, he highlighted how ESSA and initiatives from the Department of Education offer an opportunity for schools to focus on skills outside reading and math.

On the legacy on NCLB and the push for accountability
The evidence doesn't show that there was a vast, nationwide abandonment of subjects outside of math and English Language Arts, as a result of No Child Left Behind.  But there is plenty of reason to believe that too many students are not getting the opportunities in Science, Social Studies, the Arts, and world languages that they need and deserve.

On the importance of play in the early years and continuing to encourage curiosity through students’ PreK-12 careers
A well-rounded education starts in the early years. It starts with high-quality Pre-K and early learning opportunities that makes time for play and exploration. It continues with K-12 education and provides well-rounded academic opportunities and also develops student’s socioemotional skills like grit and persistence and patience and the ability to collaborate with peers. But most important, a well-rounded education helps kids make that incredibly important connection between their studies, their curiosities, and their passions, and the skills they need to become sophisticated thinkers.

On how access to a well-rounded education is also a matter of social justice
Too often, it’s kids from low-income families, and students of color, who don’t have these experiences, don’t have the chance to go to a museum, don’t have the chance to go to travels beyond their immediate neighborhood, don’t have access to the arts or to science or to social studies or to advanced coursework or to AP classes or to IB classes. And we’ve got to see this as an urgent social justice challenge for the country. We’ve got to make sure that a rich range of course offerings are available to every student in every school regardless of race, regardless of zip code.

On states’ responsibility to students and teachers
States must commit to providing the resources to every district that are necessary to provide students with a well-rounded education. Arts instruction, science labs, and school counselors – just to cite a few examples – are not luxuries or extras that should be dependent on parent fundraising or gifts from foundations; they are essential--essential to a quality education.

Read Secretary King’s speech, “What School Can Be.”

For more on the changing education landscape, come to the AAP PreK-12 Learning Group’s Content in Context (June 6-8, Philadelphia) where we’ll take an in-depth look at what’s next after ESSA.


Education Policy