The Public Interest

Why the current wave of school reform will fail

John E. Chubb

Winter 1988

IN THE EARLY 1980s Americans awoke to discover that their public schools were failing them. Student test scores, declining for nearly two decades, showed America trailing the rest of the world’s democracies in mathematics and science achievement. Young people were dropping out of high school at rates that had not changed since the mid-1960s. The public had lost faith in its schools and, enduring the worst economic recession since the 1930s, worried whether the nation possessed the intellectual talent to revitalize its industries and compete with the technological sophistication of east Asia. A flurry of prestigious reports, most notably A Nation at Risk, validated and perhaps even inflated these fears.

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