Bennett Drafting 'At Risk' Sequel For April Release
Washington--The Education Department is preparing a wide-ranging "follow up" document that will look at the state of American education five years after the release of the landmark report A Nation at Risk.
Secretary of Education William J. Bennett will be the author of the study, slated for publication next April--the fifth anniversary of the influential critique of schooling commissioned by his predecessor, Terrel H. Bell.
President Reagan assigned Mr. Bennett to prepare the report when they appeared together at a school in Missouri last March.
Mr. Bennett will "look at what has happened since 1983, and to the extent that some things haven't happened, why," Nelson Smith, the official coordinating staff work on the report, said last week.
The follow-up will look at the degree to which schools have made progress in the five areas in which the original document made recommendations, he said.
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Bennett Is Drafting Reform Follow-Up
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ing more effective use of time, improving teaching, and increasing both fiscal support of education and its administrative leadership.
The new report will also look at such topics as parental choice and ''the education-reform movement itself," said Mr. Smith, director of the research-applications division of the department's office of educational research and improvement.
Department researchers are assisting Mr. Bennett by gathering statistical information and soliciting comments from educators and others.
For example, Mr. Smith said, the staff is completing a study of high-school transcripts that seeks to un8cover trends in course selection. It is also surveying secondary-school principals' views on reform.
"It's certainly going to be the Secretary's report," Mr. Smith said. "It's also going to be backstopped by an enormous amount of work in the department and the input of people and organizations in the field. It will be a real tour of the horizon."
President Reagan asked Mr. Bennett to follow up A Nation at Risk with "a new report telling us how far we've come and what still needs to be done."
In preparation for the new study, Mr. Smith said, Mr. Bennett sent letters to about 800 "prominent people"--including governors, chief state school officers, and leaders of education organizations--asking for their views on "the state of education and the progress of reform.''
Recipients of the letter were asked: whether American students are being adequately prepared for work and for the 21st Century; whether schools "are conveying a realistic view of the world's promise and conflict"; and how the achievement of American youths compares with that of their foreign counterparts.
Top department officials have also conducted six informal seminars with a variety of educators, researchers, activists, and state officials on the topics of teaching, curriculum and standards, governance, "school productivity," education of the disadvantaged, and "school, family, and community."
The sessions included representatives from teachers' unions and other organizations that generally do not share the Administration's views.
Several participants said the discussions were lively and diverse.
"I think we said a lot of things that needed to be heard," said Dennis Gray, deputy director of the Council for Basic Education, who participated in the curriculum seminar.
"I don't think the process will determine whether the report will be balanced," he added. "The writers will do that."