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 reportRequires Adobe Acrobat Reader 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curricula, and weak teacher-preparation programs, among other issues, A Nation at Risk argued that an “incoherent, outdated patchwork quilt” of instruction was creating a culture of passive learning in which students could advance with minimum effort.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)
How do we solve this problem?
To leave no child behind, we need all teachers to be STEM literate so they can nurture the natural curiosity of students and inspire them to pursue careers in science and technology.  This is the problem we solve with the Why Science learning system.  Why Science learning systems give teachers tools to translate available content into content that captures student attention, engages natural curiosity of students and motivates learning. When teachers can be more productive because they can control classrooms, drive progress and manage student outcomes more efficiently, our students will learn.

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.

Here is a look at comparative data on selected aspects of American education over the decades since the report, highlighting academic, demographic, and other trends.
Where Are We Now: Looking at "A Nation at Risk," 30 years later

Sources Cited:

1. A Nation At Risk: Where are we now? (Education Week, April 23, 2013)

Related Press:

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)

 

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