Teachers stir science, history into core classes in spite of evidence arguing that social studies is lacking

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Concerns about general education have been part of the continuing debate over No Child Left Behind. The time devoted to reading and math has increased. And in many places, the increase has brought results. Between 2002 and 2004, Keister Elementary's passing rate went from 81 to 92 percent on the state English test and from 86 to 90 percent on the math test. But critics of the federal law say children need a more complete education.

The Washington-based Center on Education Policy reported this year that 27 percent of school systems say they are spending less time on social studies, and nearly 25 percent say they are spending less time on science, art and music. "This tendency results in impoverishing the education of all students, but particularly the education of students who perform less well on the tests," said Robert G. Smith, Arlington County school superintendent, who said his schools have resisted the trend.

Many educators defend the focus on reading and math, as long as it is done properly. Lucretia Jackson, principal of Maury Elementary School in Alexandria, said that basic skills are very important and that many children need extra time to acquire them. Her school made significant test-score gains this year by scheduling after-school classes and enrichment activities three days each week.

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