August 17, 2014
US education: How we got where we are today : The standardized state of US schools today grew from the Reagan blueprint, 'A Nation at Risk.' Why that legacy matters now. (Sarah Garland, 8/17/14, The Hechinger Report)
"A Nation at Risk," commissioned by the Reagan administration in 1981, was a scathing appraisal of public education. Its authors - a federal commission of leaders from government, business, and education - spent two years examining American schools, and they were appalled at what they found. Standardized test and SAT scores were falling. The United States was dropping behind competitors such as Japan. The public education system was so bad that not only were US students unprepared to join an increasingly high-tech workforce, 23 million Americans were functionally illiterate. Worst of all, the report concluded, Americans were complacent as their schools crumbled, threatening the very "fabric of society."One of the most famous lines in the report said: "If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war."The document set off panic in a once self-satisfied nation and launched a movement to transform the public education system. A generation later, its effects are powerful. The excoriation of American schooling is what most people remember, but its actual legacy is ingrained in public education today.The report's five proposed solutions - improving content, raising standards, overhauling the teaching profession, adding time to the school day and year, and improving leadership and fiscal support - are clear in current reform. They can be seen in the spread of the Common Core standards, a set of streamlined but intense new standards introduced in 2009 that, though controversial, are still in use in more than 40 states; in new teacher ratings based partly on standardized test scores; and in the invention and rise of charter schools with longer school days and no union contracts.Initially embraced by a coalition of conservatives and liberals, the solutions offered in "A Nation at Risk" stoked a backlash among many on the left who argued that its criticisms of public education were over the top and that its solutions ignored poverty and inequity in the system.But the Republican-driven revolution is being driven home, as never before, by a Democratic president.
One of the great amusements of being on the right is that when we get what we want we assume it must have been a liberal commie plot.
Posted by Orrin Judd at August 17, 2014 1:57 PM