A r c h i v e d  I n f o r m a t i o n

A Nation At Risk - April 1983


Secretary of Education T. H. Bell created the National Commission on Excellence in Education on August 26, 1981, directing it to examine the quality of education in the United States and to make a report to the Nation and to him within 18 months of its first meeting. In accordance with the Secretary's instructions, this report contains practical recommendations for educational improvement and fulfills the Commission's responsibilities under the terms of its charter.

The Commission was created as a result of the Secretary's concern about "the widespread public perception that something is seriously remiss in our educational system." Soliciting the "support of all who care about our future," the Secretary noted that he was establishing the Commission based on his "responsibility to provide leadership, constructive criticism, and effective assistance to schools and universities."

The Commission's charter contained several specific charges to which we have given particular attention. These included:

The Commission's charter directed it to pay particular attention to teenage youth, and we have done so largely by focusing on high schools. Selective attention was given to the formative years spent in elementary schools, to higher education, and to vocational and technical programs. We refer those interested in the need for similar reform in higher education to the recent report of the American Council on Education, To Strengthen the Quality of Higher Education.

In going about its work the Commission has relied in the main upon five sources of information:

To these public-minded citizens who took the trouble to share their concerns with us--frequently at their own expense in time, money, and effort--we extend our thanks. In all cases, we have benefited from their advice and taken their views into account; how we have treated their suggestions is, of course, our responsibility alone. In addition, we are grateful to the individuals in schools, universities, foundations, business, government, and communities throughout the United States who provided the facilities and staff so necessary to the success of our many public functions.

The Commission was impressed during the course of its activities by the diversity of opinion it received regarding the condition of American education and by conflicting views about what should be done. In many ways, the membership of the Commission itself reflected that diversity and difference of opinion during the course of its work. This report, nevertheless, gives evidence that men and women of good will can agree on common goals and on ways to pursue them.

The Commission's charter, the authors and topics of commissioned papers, a list of the public events, and a roster of the Commission's staff are included in the appendices which complete this volume.

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