National Commission on Excellence in Education

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The National Commission on Excellence in Education produced the 1983 report titled A Nation at Risk. It was chaired by David P. Gardner and included prominent members such as Nobel prize-winning chemist Glenn T. Seaborg.

It produced a short summary of its findings called The United States System of Education in which it gives a short history of education since colonial days and, after a Preface, gives an overall view on control and financing of education, organization and structure, statistical data and conclusions.


In 1983, the New York Times published an article that cited a passage from the “Pursuit of Excellence: Education and the Future of America” by the Rockefeller Brothers’ Fund’s panel, “America at Mid-Century.” The "excellence movement[1]" was largely inspired by the landmark report entitled, “Nation at Risk” by the National Commission on Excellence in Education.[2] Kevin J. Dougherty explains that this report played an important role in the "excellence" movement of the mid-1980s[3].

The article emphasized among several points the observation that teachers are frequently regarded as identical units of a factory assembly line in the education sector. Mentors regardless of competence teach the same subjects in the same grade, use one kind of textbook, deal with the same number of pupils, and receive equal salaries. This trend has not changed since 1958. The late John W. Gardner who used to be Education Secretary of former President Lyndon Johnson and afterwards Chairman of the Commission insisted that students with academic proficiency should take an additional three years each of mathematics, science, and one foreign language which did not happen.

The 36-page Nation at Risk Report criticized the state of schools in the United States and clamored for numerous reforms to rectify supposed flaws in the country’s public education system at that time. The commentary described education in America as mediocre. There were few indications of assurance because of test scores that were declining at a rapid pace, low salaries of teachers, and substandard training programs for educators. The turnover rate of teachers became alarmingly high. Statistics showed that some 23 million American grownups did not have sufficient reading and writing skills. This report gained plenty of attention from media. [4]


  1. ^ Willie, Charles V. (1985). The Excellence Movement in Education and Lessons from History.
  2. ^ Hechinger, Fred M. "ABOUT EDUCATION; A CALL FROM THE PAST FOR EXCELLENCE". Retrieved 2018-05-17.
  3. ^ Dougherty, Kevin James. (1994). The contradictory college : the conflicting origins, impacts, and futures of the community college. Albany: State University of New York Press. ISBN 0585062617. OCLC 42855557.
  4. ^ "'A Nation at Risk' Turns 30: Where Did It Take Us? - NEA Today". NEA Today. 2013-04-25. Retrieved 2018-05-17.