January 2013 • No. 1301
A Nation Still at Risk: The Continuing Crisis of American Education and Its State Solution
by Casey Given
“On the personal level the student, the parent, and the caringteacher all perceive that a basic promise is not being kept. More and more, young people emerge from high school ready neither for college nor for work. This predicament becomes more acute as the knowledge basecontinues its rapid expansion, the number of traditional jobs shrinks, and new jobs demand greater sophistication and preparation.” – A Nation at Risk (1983)
During his rst term in oce, PresidentRonald Reagan assembled some o theUnited States’ oremost educators to study the ailures o the American school systemand provide policy recommendationsor reorm. Chartered as the NationalCommission on Excellence in Education,the group published its ndings in a 1983report that sent shockwaves throughout thecountry and stimulated decades o schoolchange.Although written thirty years ago,
A Nationat Risk: Te Imperative or Educational Reorm
reads like it is describing thecrisis in American education today. Asevidenced by this report’s opening quoteexcerpted rom the study, public educationhas not improved in the decades hence,as students still “emerge rom high schoolready neither or college nor or work.”For example, the reshman high schoolgraduation rate has only increased by 1.8% since 1983.
Standardized test scoresamong high school students have alsoatlined over the same time period, withachievement on the National Assessment o Educational Progress (NAEP) dropping by 1 point in reading and increasing by merely 4 points in math since the early 1980s.
Tese bleak results are perplexingconsidering that no dearth o attentionhas been paid to education reorm since
A Nation at Risk
. o the contrary, the lastthree decades have seen an unprecedentedamount o policies implemented at theederal, state, and local level aimed atimproving educational outcomes. Fundingis certainly not the issue either sinceeducational expenditures have dramatically increased during the same time rame. In
Students still“emerge romhigh schoolready neither orcollege nor orwork.”
A Nation at Risk: Te Imperative or Educational Reorm
, National Commission on Excellence in Educa-tion (April 1983), http://datacenter.spps.org/uploads/SOW_A_Nation_at_Risk_1983.pd.2. “High school graduated, by sex and control o school: Selected years, 1869-70 through 2020-21,” NationalCenter or Education Statistics (2012), http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d11/tables/dt11_111.asp.3. “Te Nation’s Report Card: rends in Academic Progress in Reading and Mathematics 2008,”National Center or Education Statistics (April 2009), http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/pubs/main2008/2009479.asp.