Data & Research RESEARCH
A Nation Accountable: Twenty-five Years after A Nation at Risk
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Executive Summary

In 1983, Swatch introduced its first watch, Microsoft Word was released, and Michael Jackson's Thriller video hit the airwaves. We also learned that our supposedly world-class system of education was not keeping pace with the progress of other nations.

That same year, the landmark U.S. Department of Education report, A Nation at Risk, found that about 13 percent of 17-year-olds were functionally illiterate, SAT scores were dropping, and students needed an increased array of remedial courses in college. Such trends threatened both our children's opportunities and our collective future.

Twenty-five years later, it's time to review the progress we have made since the report's release. We remain a nation at risk but are also now a nation informed, a nation accountable, and a nation that recognizes there is much work to be done.

  • If we were "at risk" in 1983, we are at even greater risk now. The rising demands of our global economy, together with demographic shifts, require that we educate more students to higher levels than ever before. Yet, our education system is not keeping pace with these growing demands.
  • Of 20 children born in 1983, six did not graduate from high school on time in 2001. Of the 14 who did, 10 started college that fall, but only five earned a bachelor's degree by spring 2007.
  • Fortunately, thanks to the recent standards and accountability movement and the No Child Left Behind Act, we are finally taking an honest, comprehensive look at our schools. For the first time in our country's history, we have reliable data to evaluate student performance and address weaknesses in our schools.
  • We must leverage this information to achieve better results. We simply cannot return to the "ostrich approach" and stick our heads in the sand while grave problems threaten our education system, our civic society, and our economic prosperity. We must consider structural reforms that go well beyond current efforts, as today's students require a better education than ever before to be successful.

We know which areas need the most attention. Now we must dedicate ourselves to making sure they get it.

Twenty-five years after A Nation at Risk, can we expect more of our education system? Shouldn't we?

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Last Modified: 04/29/2008