There’s really nothing new here, but the results of a new study demonstrate yet another unintended consequence of No Child Left Behind.

In the five years since a federal law mandated an expansion of reading and math tests, 44 percent of school districts nationwide have made deep cutbacks in social studies, science, art and music lessons in elementary grades and have even slashed lunchtime, a new survey has found.

The most detailed look at the rapidly changing American school day, in a report released today, found that most districts sharply increased time spent on reading and math.

As Mitch Resnick noted in his presentation at NECC, even in Kindergarten kids are spending increasing amounts of time on phonics sheets and other paper/pencil drill activities at the expense of experiment and play.

But no matter what grade students are in, NCLB is restricting the curriculum they work with to a few narrow topics that will be tested in the spring.

Of course, those who believe this law is actually improving education don’t see these results as all that bad.

“You can’t do other subjects if you are not competent in reading and math, so first things first,” said Abigail Thernstrom, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research in New York.

Which is one of the most ridiculous education-related statements I’ve heard in a long time. Learning is not linear.

Most students – most people – are more than capable of improving their basic reading and math skills while also learning other subject. Even music and art.

In fact, that approach would be far more interesting and engaging than the continual test prep activities taking over in many elementary classrooms.

nclb, curriculum, narrowing