Goals 2000: Educate America
March 31, 1994
The Goals 2000: Educate America Act formalized and added structure to education-reform efforts begun in the late 1980s. It established education reform—improving the quality and performance of American primary and secondary schools—as a national concern and priority. It commits the country to a shared set of specific educational goals and to national curricular and student-performance standards to measure progress toward these goals. The act provides for a uniquely cooperative effort among the federal government and the states. It provides resources, a framework, and tremendous flexibility to states and schools; it has been described as offering “a structure, not a prescription,” for what should be done to achieve the national goals.1 The cooperative nature of the legislation stands out—participation is voluntary, the adoption of standards and tests by states is voluntary, and school-improvement plans funded by Goals 2000 do not need prior federal approval or certification. Under Goals 2000, the federal government and the states act together in pursuit of systematic educational change and improvement.
Politically, what was to become Goals 2000 began as a bipartisan effort, an outgrowth of the 1989 National Education Summit held in Charlottesville, Virginia, among President George Bush and the 50 state governors. It was formulated as America 2000 under the Bush administration and was then recast and formalized as Goals 2000 under the Bill Clinton administration. It enjoyed the political support of both Democratic and Republican governors. Since its passage, vocal opposition has emerged on both the right and the left. Conservative critics of Goals 2000 express concerns over federal