Academic journal article Education Next

The Reforms for Whom? the Most Successful of the Changes Proposed by A Nation at Risk Were Those That Enjoyed Backing from Powerful Interest Groups in Education. (Feature)

Academic journal article Education Next

The Reforms for Whom? the Most Successful of the Changes Proposed by A Nation at Risk Were Those That Enjoyed Backing from Powerful Interest Groups in Education. (Feature)

Article excerpt

The core of A Nation at Risk was its concern that America's public schools were not challenging enough to prepare students for a future built on technology and information. Students, Risk said, were not taking enough academic courses. Expectations for students were set too low, evidenced by the fact that grades for coursework often failed to correlate with students' scores on independent exams. Too little of the day was spent in class or doing homework. The school year was too short. Too few teachers were qualified to teach math and science. Finally, teachers were being drawn mainly from the bottom of the achievement distribution among college students.

Risk's recommendations focused on solving the problems in four areas: curriculum, expectations, time, and teaching. Twenty years later, progress on these recommendations has been spotty and altogether disappointing. Substantial progress has been made in the area of curriculum, where Risk's recommendations could be fulfilled by rule changes, such as increasing requirements for graduation. A much larger share of students is taking an academic slate of courses (see Figures 1-3). But whether the content of these courses is actually any more difficult is impossible to tell. Progress has also been made on recommendations that required real change, if they were supported by powerful interest groups in education, especially the teacher unions. …

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