Democracy at Risk: The Need for a New Federal Policy in Education

Julia Heneghan

The Forum for Education and Democracy
April 2008

On the 25th anniversary of A Nation at Risk, this report berates current federal education policy, à la NCLB, for causing a backslide in academic progress. Yet its proposals are all Back to the Future. The authors of the report want a lot more money--they suggest pouring an additional $29 billion per year into public schools--even though there's no evidence that this will improve student learning. They bemoan the "federal strategy of attempting to improve schools through mandates and sanctions" and complain that "we have demanded results without transforming schooling." We should, it suggests, move from an accountability-based system to one focused more on equity and opportunity. That is, the report's authors believe the federal government ought to provide money without demanding increased student achievement. If that prescription sounds familiar, that's because we already tried it for decades, and it didn't work. If you must, read the report here. Even better, read this statement--drafted by Education Trust and other civil rights groups and signed by Fordham and many others--reaffirming A Nation at Risk's call for higher standards, here.

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