This month marks the 25th Anniversary of A Nation at Risk, the government study that examined education and what needs to be changed to improve American education. The study was put together by a team of educators including school board members from urban districts, rural districts, state associations, presidents of universities, principals, a Nobel Laureate, and a teacher of the year (to name a few). It’s widely regarded as “the” report on education, but for many of us in the daily grind of working in the world of education, we were merely school kids ourselves when the report came out.
USA Today took one side of the issue in Friday’s edition, essentially saying that while we have a long way to go, there are improvements in education that should be emulated. In the other corner, Lawrence Mishel, president of the Economic Policy Institute, pits the problems in schools against other American problems such as poverty, the credit debacle, and a loss of industrial jobs.
Nothing in America operates in a vacuum, and education’s problems often trickle down to other aspects of society, but can the schools solve a credit crisis? How about health care? Poverty? Shall we go on? Yes, education is the answer to many of our ills, but educational innovations are the key to the future. So much has changed, yet so much has stayed the same as the America we knew in 1983. Look at the facts–economic uncertainly in the U.S.–check. Uncertainty in the international community and it’s view of the U.S.–check. Wages being stagnant–check. “Crisis” in education–check.
So what’s a teacher, administrator, school board member, superintendent, or most importantly, a student to do? The ideas are out there, but just like those days in school in 80s, you’re gonna have to do some homework (and the internet wasn’t even being used by regular people yet). NSBA has some innovative ideas through the National Affiliate program, CUBE, TLN, and your state school boards association is always willing to help. Dig in. You’ll find that the best answers are often in the depths of the web pages, but what’s most important is that as we read about all the flaws and comparisons to the last 25 years, we realize that we still have work to do, and it is possible to have positive results.