KANSAS CITY, Kan. - Across the country, middle school and high school students are being required to spend more class time on English and mathematics as officials try to raise test scores and meet the requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind Act.
Variations of the double-dose approach are being used in districts in such places as Kansas, Missouri, Texas, New Jersey and California.
Some students attend two class periods each day of English and math, and often one of those English classes is devoted to reading instruction - something that traditionally ends when students leave elementary school.
Some schools offer longer classes, or classes that meet every day instead of every other day, or classes that extend for a full year instead of a single semester.
The approach appears to pay off at test time, but some educators worry that youngsters forced to give up some of their electives are being deprived of a well-rounded education and the opportunity to explore new subjects.
Havenscourt Middle School in Oakland, Calif., decided to require two class periods of the core subjects for all pupils. The change left no time for electives and forced the school to drop wood shop, art, music and Spanish. Now, those electives and others are offered before and after school as extras.
"We can't say it's OK to spend so much time on the basics that we let the broader curriculum slide," said John See, an American Federation of Teachers spokesman and a former math teacher.
The union said 87 percent of its members - across all grade levels - reported in an April 2005 survey that increases in testing have pushed important subjects and activities out of the curriculum.
In March, the Washington-based Center on Education Policy released a survey that showed 71 percent of a sampling of 299 of the nation's 15,000 school districts were spending more time on math and reading to the exclusion of other subjects.