For The Record
The following are excerpts from reactions to the report of the National Commission on Excellence in Education. The report, released on April 26, warned of a "rising tide of mediocrity" in American education.
President Reagan, in a radio address to the nation on April 30:
There are things the federal government can and must do to ensure educational excellence, but bigger budgets are not the answer. Federal spending increased 17-fold during the same 20 years that marked such a dramatic decline in quality.
We will continue our firm commitment to support the education efforts of state and local governments. But the focus of our agenda is, as it must be, to restore parental choice and influence and to increase competition between schools.
Albert Shanker, president of the American Federation of Teachers:
We won't agree with everything they say, but we ought to thank them for their concern and sit down and negotiate the solutions. Our progress as a nation and as a profession depends on a cooperative approach. If all we do is react negatively to these commission studies and reports, we'll have people abandoning the public schools, and they will turn to private schools and other education alternatives.
Calvin Frazier, Colorado state superintendent of education:
From a financial perspective, the timing of the report could not be worse, since 47 states are struggling with reductions and budget alterations. However, it is conceivable that we have reached the low point in terms of fiscal reductions. If the economy improves, we need to be prepared for investment recommendations that will have the most potential for improving our nation's educational health.
Carolyn Warner, Arizona state superintendent of education:
When you strip away the high-flown verbiage and the incredible "sky is falling" claims about "unilateral educational disarmament," the report is basically a dated snapshot of American education in 1975.
Gordon Cawelti, executive director of the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development:
It is federal policy that is responsible for a rigorous academic program for an elite group of secondary-school youth in Western European countries and Japan. Central ministry-mandated curricula and reasonably uniform and competitive teacher pay levels are disdained or not possible here in the U.S. with its 50 states and 16,000 districts.
[The] report perpetuates the "apples and oranges" comparisons of European secondary-school attainment levels with U.S. students. Some 15 percent to 30 percent of the 17-year-olds graduate in those countries, compared to 76 percent here in the U.S.
Floretta D. McKenzie, superintendent of the District of Columbia public schools:
I balk at the report's emphasis on only the most negative side of today's educational state. I wish such a national commission would have lingered awhile in acknowledging the encouraging and exemplary indicators of education's health. However, I have also shared the educators' longstanding lament that education is a taken-for-granted, overburdened institution, frequently given lip service as an American foundation, but rarely given its due on the list of national or local priorities.
S. John Davis, Virginia state superintendent of education:
The commission calls for high-school students to take four years of English and three years each of social studies, science, and math. Virginia presently requires four years of English, three years of social studies, but only one year each of science and math. I feel that it is essential that more math and science be required in high school.
Willard McGuire, president of the National Education Association:
We find this report exciting. It calls for far greater national leadership in education. It urges a local-state-national partnership. It ignores or contradicts many of the priorities promoted by President Reagan.
Samuel G. Sava, executive director of the National Association of Elementary School Principals:
Too often, our leaders say we must promote excellence in schools while they cut funds for programs that produce quality education, and as they volunteer only their halfhearted, sometimes reluctant, support for schools.
For example, one concern addressed by the report is the need for improved math and science instruction. Yet the funding for a National Science Foundation program designed to provide inservice training for teachers has steadily declined from a high of $60 million in 1964 to $2.9 million last year.