James Harvey and David Berliner: What “A Nation at Risk” Got Wrong, and What We Must Change

Diane Ravitch's blog

“A Nation at Risk” was published in 1983. It launched the false narrative that American public schools were failing. The nation was in recession, and the authors of the report blamed the schools. When the economy improved, no one said, “Oops, we were wrong about the schools.”

In this article, James Harvey and David Berliner reflect on what the report said, and what needs to change to create real reform.

Although there is powerful evidence of significant improvement in American schools since 1971, as Arne Duncan, President Barack Obama’s first secretary of education, recently noted, “A Nation at Risk” itself ignored that evidence in favor of launching what turned into a “shock and awe” campaign that promoted a consistent narrative of school failure.

Part of the shock and awe campaign used the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).  With the encouragement of Secretary Bennett and his allies, this excellent…

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