One Year After 'Rising Tide' Report, Bell Sees a 'Tidal Wave' of Reform
Washington--President Reagan and Secretary of Education Terrel H. Bell feted the members of the National Commission on Excellence in Education at the White House last Friday to mark the first anniversary of "A Nation At Risk," the commission's now-widely-cited report.
Before the meeting, President Reagan, in a discussion on the commission's report with columnists, said: "We're proud of Americans out there. They have picked up the recommendations of the commission and gone a long ways with them. We feel the commission is bringing about a return of standards and a renewed sense of purpose in the schools."
"Basic subjects had become very unimportant," he added. "We think that is changing now."
The President noted that the recent reforms in education have come about without an increase in federal funding for education.
At the ceremony, Secretary Bell presented Mr. Reagan with a 229-page summary of efforts by the states over the past few years to improve education.
Titled "The Nation Responds: Recent Efforts to Improve Education," the report was prepared by the Education Department.
Secretary Bell said the findings included in the survey represent "a tidal wave of school reform which promises to renew American education."
The study includes a detailed outline of steps taken to improve public schools in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia and a summary of state actions in 20 different areas. It indicates, for example, that 47 states have taken, or are considering, actions to change their methods of training and certifying teachers and that 48 states have made changes in their high-school graduation requirements.
The study also lists organizations involved in the reform movement and examples of private-sector initiatives recently undertaken on behalf of the schools.
Mr. Bell said 20,000 copies of the report will be distributed to educators and another 55,000 will be available through the Government Printing Office. In a foreward to the study, he notes that the printing office produced more than 70,000 copies of "A Nation At Risk."
At a press briefing held the day before the meeting at the White House, Secretary Bell predicted that as a result of the activity documented in the new report, the nation will "regain over the next five years much of what it lost" in educational attainment in recent years. "We are on the verge of far-reaching change," he said.
But he acknowledged that the new study reflects an uneven "pattern of activity" among the states and that "there hasn't been enough time to measure the results of the reforms effectively."
"What we are really interested in is student achievement," he said, "and we are a ways away from testing that adequately."
The new study is intended to help "sustain the momentum" of the reform movement and help states share ideas, the Secretary said.
President Reagan also inaugurated a new Presidential Academic Fitness Awards program at the White House on Friday, when he presented awards to 60 of the 217,000 high-school seniors who qualified for awards.
To qualify for the program, which is modeled after the Presidential Physical Fitness Awards program, graduating seniors must have a cumulative grade average of B+ in high school, a score placing them at the 80th percentile or above on any nationally recognized standardized achievement test or college-admissions test, and a minimum of 12 high-school courses in the "New Basics" that were outlined by the National Commission.
Secretary Bell also announced the 1984 Presidential Scholars last week. The 141 winners were chosen by a panel of 51 private citizens appointed by the President on the basis of their artistic achievement or their academic achievement, leadership qualities, and involvement in community and school activities.
They will each receive a medallion at a White House reception in June and a $1,000 scholarship from the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation.
The program was established by Executive Order 20 years ago.