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DURING the national debate about education that began in April 1983 with the publication of "A Nation at Risk" by the National Commission on Excellence in Education, the elementary schools have been almost entirely ignored. This is a pity, because it is in the elementary schools that children gain (or don't gain) a firm foundation for future learning.
Perhaps the major reason so little attention has been paid to elementary schools is that there is general consensus that the significant problems of the schools begin after sixth grade. After all, unlike high schools, the elementary schools offer everyone a fairly common curriculum and they are not plagued by absenteeism or disciplinary problems. There is little doubt that the chief job of the elementary teacher is to teach a good command of basic