Education policy wonks are gearing up to commemorate the 25th anniversary next week of A Nation at Risk, the report that memorably warned Americans that their society’s educational foundations were “being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity that threatens our very future as a nation and a people.”
The report—from a commission formed by Secretary of Education Terrel H. Bell—is considered a major catalyst for the push for higher standards and other school improvement efforts that began in the 1980s and eventually led to the significantly increased federal role in education at the center of the No Child Left Behind Act.
There was no word as of late last week from the White House or the Department of Education on specific federal plans for marking the anniversary. The report was issued April 26, 1983.
From the Archives: Review Education Week‘s 20th anniversary of A Nation at Risk, a report whose martial rhetoric and warnings of academic mediocrity have reverberated throughout education policymaking for nearly a generation.
• Also, look for Education Week‘s special collection to mark the 25th anniversary of the landmark report. The collection will go online April 22 at www.edweek.org.
Education Department spokeswoman Samara Yudof said the department does plan to commemorate the occasion, but no details were available at press time.
Other activities tied to the anniversary are scheduled.
The Forum on Education and Democracy, an Athens, Ohio-based research and advocacy organization, is planning an event on April 23 at the National Press Club in Washington. The list of speakers includes some heavy-hitters, such as Milton Goldberg, who as the executive director of Secretary Bell’s National Commission on Excellence in Education helped craft the report, and Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., the chairman of the House education committee.
Meanwhile, the Cato Institute, a Washington think tank, was scheduled to hold a forum April 16 titled “Markets vs. Standards: Debating the Future of American Education.”
The libertarian institute said the 1983 report gave momentum to the movements for accountability and school choice. Cato has invited Sol Stern, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a New York City think tank, and John D. Merrifield, an economics professor at the University of Texas at San Antonio and the editor of the Journal of School Choice.
A version of this article appeared in the April 16, 2008 edition of Education Week