Advanced study does not exist in isolation. As advanced study programs are currently structured in the United States, they have wide-ranging effects on the curricula, teachers, and students in the schools where they are offered. In turn, they are affected by political, educational, and social contexts that shape their implementation in schools. This chapter reviews the policy context of advanced study (including its financing), its educational context (including student preparation for advanced study in both middle and high school and teacher preparation), disparities in opportunities for different groups of students to pursue and succeed in advanced study, and the connections between advanced study and higher education.

POLICY CONTEXT

Immediately following the release of A Nation at Risk by the National Commission on Excellence in Education (1983), intense public interest was generated in improving the achievement of U.S. secondary school students by reforming and restructuring U.S. high schools. Although most states and school districts have adopted the commission’s recommendations for strengthening state and local high school graduation requirements,3 U.S. high schools still face intense criticism from those involved in higher education, policymakers, education reformers, and the public for continuing to graduate significant numbers of students who are neither well prepared for college nor able to enter the workplace with the technological and problem-solving skills demanded by the new economy (American Federation of Teachers [AFT], 1999; Kaufman, Bradby, and Teitelbaum, 2000; National Association of Secondary School Principals [NASSP], 1996; National Commission on the High School Senior Year [NCHSSY], 2001a, 2001b; Powell, Farrar, and Cohen, 1985; Sizer, 1992).

High schools may not be failing to the degree that some of these reports indicate (see for example, Berliner and Biddle, 1996). However, the Mathematics and Science Report Cards of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)4 and data gathered from state education testing and the SAT I and II suggest that the schools are doing a less than stellar job in challenging all students to achieve at the same high levels.

In 1999 Richard Riley, then U.S. Secretary of Education, declared it was time to change U.S. high schools so they would be better aligned with the

3  

The Five New Basics recommended by the commission included 4 years of English; 3 years of mathematics; 3 years of science; 3 years of social studies; one-half year of computer science; and, for the college-bound, 2 years of foreign language.

4  

Available at http://www.nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/ (February 10, 2002).



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement