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National Education Curriculum Goals

The Old National Goals

At an education summit held in 1989, former President George H. Bush and every state governor agreed upon 6 national education goals for the United States to achieve by the year 2000. Two more goals were added in 1994, and Congress passed legislation known as the National Education Goals. The goals created a framework for improving student achievement and refocusing the objectives of education. At the same time, the goals left specific tactics to state and local governments and to schools. Basically, the goals describe a general set of standards toward which all Americans should strive.

The National Educational Goals that were supposed to be achieved by the year 2000 are:

1.       All children in the United States will start school ready to learn.

2.       The high school graduation rate will increase to at least 90 percent.

3.       U.S. students will leave grades 4, 8, and 12 having demonstrated competency in challenging subject matters, including English, mathematics, science, foreign languages, civics and government, economics, arts, history, and geography; every school will ensure that all students learn to use their minds well, so they may be prepared for responsible citizenship, further learning, and productive employment in our nation's modern economy.

4.       The nation's teaching force will have access to programs for the continued improvement of their professional skills and the opportunity to acquire the knowledge and skills needed to instruct and prepare all students for the next century.

5.       U.S. students will be first in the world in mathematics and science achievement.

6.       Every adult American will be literate and will possess the knowledge and skills necessary to compete in a global economy and to exercise the rights and responsibilities of citizenship.

7.       Every school in the United States will be free of alcohol and other drugs, violence, and the unauthorized presence of firearms and will offer a disciplined environment conducive to learning.

8.       Every school will promote partnerships that will increase parental involvement and participation in promoting the social, emotional, and academic growth of children.

The Current “National Goals”

Anyone who follows the news on the U.S. public school system can see that not all the National Education Goals were achieved. However, no new goals were ever explicitly created. The National Education Goals expired at the end of the Clinton administration. President George W. Bush decided to take national education policy in a new direction. He worked with members of Congress to create incentives for local school authorities to design plans that would increase high school graduation rates, student proficiency, and school safety. Schools that complied and made adequate yearly progress toward those goals received funding; schools that did not make adequate yearly progress received more direct oversight. This system of incentives and support is known as No Child Left Behind, or NCLB. Although its provisions reveal lofty aspirations and innovative solutions, NCLB has come under heavy criticism in implementation, specifically, that that federal government did not deliver on the funds it promised compliant states.

The Obama administration has continued some of systems created through NCLB, but has also excused certain school districts from NCLB’s more burdensome requirements. Instead, the Obama administration created a new program called Race to the Top, in which school districts submitted their own improvement plans to the Department of Education. The federal government then awarded funds to the most promising plans so that the most innovative districts could have the chance to implement their ideas.

For more information, see FindLaw’s sections on School Funding and No Child Left Behind.

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