Opinion
Federal Commentary

A Nation at Risk: Where Are We Now?

April 23, 2013 2 min read

This week marks the 30th anniversary of the release of A Nation at Risk by the National Commission on Excellence in Education formed by U.S. Secretary of Education Terrel H. Bell. The landmark report declared that “the educational foundations of our society are presently being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity that threatens our very future as a nation and a people.” Pointing to what it said were flagging test scores, diluted curricula, and weak teacher-preparation programs, among other issues, A Nation at Risk argued that an “incoherent, outdated patchwork quilt” of instruction was creating a culture of passive learning in which students could advance with minimum effort.

The commission recommended “five new basics” for students seeking a high school diploma: four courses in English, three in mathematics, three in science, three in social studies, and one-half credit in computer science. Two courses in foreign language were proposed for students planning on attending college. Other recommendations included taking steps to improve teacher quality, allowing for more classroom time devoted to the new basics, increasing academic rigor, and raising standards for college admission.

See Also

In the first installment of the new OpEducation blog, a panel of five education thought leaders discusses the impact of A Nation at Risk. Read more.

A catalyst for the academic-standards movement, the report was widely circulated and its findings strongly influenced policymakers and opinion leaders. But it was not without its detractors. Among the criticisms leveled against the authors was a lack of attention to K-8 education, a dearth of sourcing for the cited statistics, and a failure to identify root causes of education problems.

Here is a look at comparative data on selected aspects of American education over the decades since the report, highlighting academic, demographic, and other trends.


Designed by: Vanessa Solis, Sumita Bannerjee, Gina Tomko, and Laura Baker

Copy the code below to embed this infographic:

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the April 24, 2013 edition of Education Week as Where Are We Now?

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
Interactive Learning Best Practices: Creative Ways Interactive Displays Engage Students
Students and teachers alike struggle in our newly hybrid world where learning takes place partly on-site and partly online. Focus, engagement, and motivation have become big concerns in this transition. In this webinar, we will
Content provided by Samsung
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Classroom Technology Webinar
Educator-Driven EdTech Design: Help Shape the Future of Classroom Technology
Join us for a collaborative workshop where you will get a live demo of GoGuardian Teacher, including seamless new integrations with Google Classroom, and participate in an interactive design exercise building a feature based on
Content provided by GoGuardian
School & District Management Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table With Education Week: What Did We Learn About Schooling Models This Year?
After a year of living with the pandemic, what schooling models might we turn to as we look ahead to improve the student learning experience? Could year-round schooling be one of them? What about online

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Federal CDC: Nearly 80 Percent of K-12, Child-Care Workers Have Had at Least One COVID-19 Shot
About four out of five teachers, school staffers, and child-care workers had first COVID-19 vaccine doses by the end of March, CDC says.
2 min read
John Battle High School teacher Jennifer Daniel receives her COVID-19 vaccine on Jan. 11, 2021. Teachers received their first vaccine during an all-day event at the Virginia Highlands Higher Education Center in Abingdon, Va.
John Battle High School teacher Jennifer Daniel receives her COVID-19 vaccine on Jan. 11at the Virginia Highlands Higher Education Center in Abingdon, Va.
David Crigger/Bristol Herald Courier via AP
Federal Ed. Dept. to Review Title IX Rules on Sexual Assault, Gender Equity, LGBTQ Rights
The review could reopen a Trump-era debate on sexual assault in schools, and it could spark legal discord over transgender student rights.
4 min read
Symbols of gender.
iStock/Getty
Federal Q&A EdWeek Q&A: Miguel Cardona Talks Summer Learning, Mental Health, and State Tests
In an interview after a school reopening summit, the education secretary also addressed teachers' union concerns about CDC guidance.
10 min read
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona speaks during a press briefing at the White House on March 17, 2021.
U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona speaks during a press briefing at the White House on March 17.
Andrew Harnik/AP
Federal Senators Press Deputy Education Secretary Nominee on School Closures, Lost Learning Time
If confirmed, San Diego Unified Superintendent Cindy Marten would be the Education Department's number two as it urges in-person learning.
5 min read
San Diego Unified School District Superintendent Cindy Marten speaks at Lincoln High School in San Diego during the State of the District Address on Oct. 20, 2015.
San Diego Unified School District Superintendent Cindy Marten would be second in command at the U.S. Department of Education if confirmed as deputy secretary.
Misael Virgen/San Diego Union-Tribune