This week marks the 30th anniversary of the release of A Nation at Risk by the National Commission on Excellence in Education formed by U.S. Secretary of Education Terrel H. Bell. The landmark report declared that “the educational foundations of our society are presently being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity that threatens our very future as a nation and a people.” Pointing to what it said were flagging test scores, diluted curricula, and weak teacher-preparation programs, among other issues, A Nation at Risk argued that an “incoherent, outdated patchwork quilt” of instruction was creating a culture of passive learning in which students could advance with minimum effort.
The commission recommended “five new basics” for students seeking a high school diploma: four courses in English, three in mathematics, three in science, three in social studies, and one-half credit in computer science. Two courses in foreign language were proposed for students planning on attending college. Other recommendations included taking steps to improve teacher quality, allowing for more classroom time devoted to the new basics, increasing academic rigor, and raising standards for college admission.
But its warnings still reverberate today, with 1 in 4 Americans failing to earn a high school degree on time and the U.S. lagging other countries in the percentage of young people who complete college.
The U.S. system of science and mathematics education is performing far below par, if left unattended will leave millions of young Americans unprepared to succeed in a global economy.
- 78% of high school students require remedial reading and math courses (ACT Readiness Benchmarks)
- Only 40% of college STEM majors obtain STEM degree (National Academies Report, Rising Above the Gathering Storm)
After 30 years of blaming teachers and fostering negative learning environments by excessive testing and punitive policies for educators, it is time consider policies which foster positive learning environment for our students.
1. A Nation At Risk: Where are we now? (Education Week, April 23, 2013)
1. A Nation at Risk Turns 30: Where Did It Take Us? (NEA Today, April 25)
2. ‘A Nation at Risk’: How much of ‘apocalyptic’education report still applies? (Christian Science Monitor, April 26)