Issued in 1983, A Nation at Risk was a strident critique of America's public schools. Warning of widespread failure within the system, the report argued that these weaknesses compromised America's preeminence in the emerging global marketplace. Its publication would mark the beginning of an era of increased federal involvement in educational achievement.

A Scathing Critique

On April 26, 1983, the National Commission on Excellence in Education, an 18-member committee created by President Ronald Reagan's secretary of education, issued its report on the quality of America's public education system. The report was blunt in its assessment and harsh in its rhetoric. “Our Nation is at risk,” it began. “A rising tide of mediocrity” was threatening the country's schools; “if an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on ...

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