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APPENDIX CThe Education Refonn Movement of the 19SOs In the 1980s, a crusade to improve public education gathered momentum. The movement began as several states sought to correct long-standing problems in public schools. In 1983, the education reform movement gained national prominence with the publication of the report, A Nation at Risk (National Commis- sion on Excellence in Education, 19831. That report criticized Ameri- can education and issued several recommendations to remedy per- ceived problems. The commission recommended 4 years of English, 3 years of mathematics, 3 years of science, 3 years of social studies, and one-half year of computer science for high school students seeking a diploma. The commission strongly recommended 2 years of foreign lan- guage for college-bound students. The report suggested that the school day be lengthened or students spend more of the year in school, and schools renew their commitment to basic skills and academic subjects. A Nation at Risk spurred action at all levels of government. Gover- nors and state legislatures that had not already done so began to cre- ate panels and develop strategies for educational reform. In some cases, individual school boards began reform plans of their own (USDE, 19841. The education reform movement touches virtually all aspects of ed- ucation. Its general theme, however, is that more should be demanded of teachers, students, and administrators, and basic subjects and cog- nitive skills should be reemphasized. One set of reforms sought to improve the quality and skills of teach- ers. It was found that as a group, college students who planned to ma- jor in education had low scores on Scholastic Aptitude Tests (The Col- lege Board, 19851. To remedy this problem, schools and colleges of teacher education are focusing on recruitment to attract and retain 60

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APPENDIX C 61 better students and upgrading course work contents and requirements for prospective teachers (USDE, 19841. Reformers also criticized the required curricula for undergraduate and graduate degrees in education, which, they argued, showed future teachers how to teach but not what to teach. Because teacher certifi- cation in most states requires some credits in education, college grad- uates with biology or English degrees who subsequently decide upon a teaching career have to return to school to take required education courses. Critics argued that such requirements keep many highly skilled individuals out of the classroom. To encourage these people to pursue careers in teaching, a few states have developed teacher prep- aration programs for graduates with liberal arts and science degrees. The programs generally involve participation in a 1-year or short-term intensive teacher education program that grants full certification to those who complete it. Testing of the skills and knowledge of teacher candidates also be- came more common in the early 1980s, following reports that docu- mented deficiencies among active teachers. The National Teacher Ex- amination became more widely used for individuals first entering the teaching profession. Some states also began testing teachers already at work. The education reform movement affected teachers already in the classroom in other ways, too. Following the lead of Tennessee's then- Governor Lamar Alexander, states and school districts began trying to assemble "master teacher" or "career ladder" plans. The goals of these plans were to reward excellent teachers with higher status and more money, as well as to use these teachers as mentors and models for less experienced colleagues. In practice, however, the plans proved very dif- ficult to set up; objective criteria for "excellence" were not easily de- fined. Nevertheless, the career ladder concept is still being tried in some places. Most of the recommendations that came out of the reform movement were aimed at students. The quality and the quantity of instruction were generally found wanting. In the area of quality, reformers criticized the emphasis on instruc- tion that did not demand that students think critically and analyti- cally. Results of the National Assessment for Educational Progress (NAEP) found that students had improved in basic skills in recent years and could now read and perform simple arithmetic better than stu- dents could a decade earlier. But when confronted with questions that demanded analysis or critical thinking, students did not improve. They were not adequately taught to solve problems, only to recognize correct answers (NAEP, 19821. Education in mathematics, science, and foreign languages was found

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62 APPENDIX C particularly deficient. A 1980 report by the NSF and USDE character- ized Americans as "scientific illiterates." It found that students re- ceived too little instruction in science and mathematics to prepare them for their roles as workers and citizens in a highly technological society (NSF and USDE, 19801. In 1983, a commission appointed by the Na- tional Science Board (NSB) proposed a plan to remedy the deficiencies in mathematics and science instruction (NSB Commission on Precol- lege Education in Mathematics, Science, and Technology, 19831. The commission recommended that substantial science instruction begin in the early years of school and be integrated into the curriculum in a way that gives students more hands-on experience. As students pro- gress through school, instruction should continue to illuminate the links between science, society, and practical problems such as energy use, pollution, and disease. Most education officials and policymakers responded to these criti- cisms in a straightforward way: they raised graduation requirements. Many state colleges and land grant universities imposed stricter en- trance requirements, typically involving more academic credits. In many states where students were required to take one science course before receiving a diploma, they are now required to take two or three. The same is true for mathematics and, in some cases, foreign languages. Increasing requirements for the number of hours devoted to these basic academic courses soon raised new concerns. Time available for electives and extracurricular activities was reduced, as were opportu- nities to explore different subjects or take vocational courses. Nor was it enough simply to require more of the same abstract science typically offered what students needed to learn was how science and technol- ogy affect the world. Some agricultural educators were already work- ing to incorporate more science into vocational agriculture courses, but they found it harder to attract students who had to fit more academic subjects into their school day. The long-term effects of the educational reform movement on elec- tives are still not known. Whether vocational agriculture will flourish under the new requirements will depend at least in part on its own capacity to be flexible and scientifically rigorous. Vocational agricul- ture can achieve this rigor by satisfying, in part, newly imposed grad- uation and college entrance requirements.