According to "A Nation at Risk", the American education system has declined due to a "
rising tide of mediocrity" in our schools. States such as New York have responded to the
findings and recommendations of the report by implementing such strategies as the
"Regents Action Plan" and the "New Compact for Learning".
In the early 1980Ęs, President Regan ordered a national commission to study our
education system. The findings of this commission were that, compared with other
industrialized nations, our education system is grossly inadequate in meeting the
standards of education that many other countries have developed. At one time, America
was the world leader in technology, service, and industry, but overconfidence based on
a historical belief in our superiority has caused our nation to fall behind the rapidly
growing competitive market in the world with regard to education. The report in some
respects is an unfair comparison of our education system, which does not have a
national standard for goals, curriculum, or regulations, with other countries that do, but
the findings nevertheless reflect the need for change. Our education system at this time
is regulated by states which implement their own curriculum, set their own goals and
have their own requirements for teacher preparation. Combined with this is the fact that
we have lowered our expectations in these areas, thus we are not providing an equal or
quality education to all students across the country. The commission findings generated
recommendations to improve the content of education and raise the standards of
student achievement, particularly in testing, increase the time spent on education and
provide incentives to encourage more individuals to enter the field of education as well
as improving teacher preparation.
N.Y. State responded to these recommendations by first implementing the Regents
Action Plan; an eight year plan designed to raise the standards of education. This plan
changed the requirements for graduation by raising the number of credits needed for
graduation, raising the number of required core curriculum classes such as social
studies, and introduced technology and computer science. The plan also introduced the
Regents Minimum Competency Tests, which requires a student to pass tests in five
major categories; math, science, reading, writing, and two areas of social studies.
Although the plan achieved many of its goals in raising standards of education in N.Y.
State, the general consensus is that we need to continue to improve our education
system rather than being satisfied with the achievements we have made thus far.
Therefore, N.Y. adopted "The New Compact for Learning". This plan is based on the
principles that all children can learn. The focus of education should be on results and
teachers should aim for mastery, not minimum competency. Education should be
provided for all children and authority with accountability should be given to educators
and success should be rewarded with necessary changes being made to reduce failures.
This plan calls for curriculum to be devised in order to meet the needs of students so
that they will be fully functional in society upon graduation, rather than just being able to
graduate. Districts within the state have been given the authority to devise their own
curriculum, but are held accountable by the state so that each district meets the states
goals that have been established. Teachers are encouraged to challenge students to
reach their full potential, rather than minimum competency. In this regard, tracking of
students is being eliminated so that all students will be challenged, rather than just those
who are gifted. Similarly, success should be rewarded with recognition and incentives to
further encourage progress for districts, teachers and students while others who are not
as accomplished are provided remedial training or resources in order to help them
achieve success.
It is difficult to determine whether our country on the whole has responded to the
concerns that "A Nation at Risk" presented. Clearly though, N.Y. State has taken
measures over the last ten years to improve its own education system. In many respects
the state has accomplished much of what it set out to do, but the need to continue to
improve is still present. Certainly, if America is determined to regain its superiority in the
world, education, the foundation of our future, needs to be priority number one.
Teachers often develop academic expectations of students based on characteristics
that are unrelated to academic progress. These expectations can affect the way
educators present themselves toward the student, causing an alteration in the way our
students learn, and thus causing an overall degeneration in the potential growth of the