NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


April 4, 2007

A report published in Science magazine says teachers spend too much time on basic reading and math skills and not enough on problem-solving, reasoning, science and social studies.  They also suggest that U.S. education focuses too much on teacher qualifications and not enough on teachers being engaging and supportive, says USA Today.

Among the findings:

  • Fifth-graders spent 91.2 percent of class time in their seats listening to a teacher or working alone, and only 7 percent working in small groups, which foster social skills and critical thinking; findings were similar in first and third grades.
  • In fifth grade, 62 percent of instructional time was in literacy or math; only 24 percent was devoted to social studies or science.
  • About 1 in 7 (14 percent) kids had a consistently high-quality "instructional climate" all three years studied.
  • Most classrooms had a fairly healthy "emotional climate," but only 7 percent of students consistently had classrooms high in both; there was no difference between public and private schools.

The researchers found a few bright spots -- kids use time well, for one.  But they found just as many signs that classrooms can be dull, bleak places where kids don't get a lot of teacher feedback or face time.

In addition, although all teachers surveyed had bachelor's degrees -- and 44 percent had a master's -- it didn't mean that their classrooms were productive.  The typical teacher scored only 3.6 out of 7 points for "richness of instructional methods," and 3.4 for providing "evaluative feedback" to students on their work.

Source: Greg Toppo, "Study gives teachers barely passing grade in classroom," USA Today, March 30, 2007.

For text:

For report (subscription required):


Browse more articles on Education Issues