ERIC Identifier: ED358581
Publication Date: 1993-00-00
Author: Gronlund, Laurie E.
Source: ACCESS ERIC Rockville
Understanding the National Goals. ERIC Digest.
The National Education Goals create clear, concise targets for educational
improvement relevant to all Americans from early childhood through adulthood.
The process of implementing these Goals has included three steps. In September
1989, then-President Bush and the 50 state governors held an Education Summit in
Charlottesville, Virginia. The outcome was the creation of a framework for
action called the National Education Goals. Adopted in 1990, the Goals state
that by the year 2000:
- All children in America will start school ready to learn.
- The high school graduation rate will increase to at least 90 percent.
- American students will leave grades four, eight, and twelve having
demonstrated competency in challenging subject matter, including English,
mathematics, science, history, and geography; and every school in America 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
- U. S. students will be first in the world in science and mathematics
- Every adult American will be literate and will possess the knowledge and
skills necessary to compete in a global economy and exercise the rights and
responsibilities of citizenship.
- Every school in America will be free of drugs and violence and will offer a
disciplined environment conducive to learning.
A bipartisan National Education Goals Panel of governors, senior national
administration officials, and congressional representatives was created to
monitor the Nation's progress towards the Goals and to report their findings
annually to the American people. Lastly, the Panel proposed to establish a
National Education Standards and Assessments Council to develop criteria for
voluntary certification of national and state content and performance standards
and assessment systems. The Council's final form and duties, however, are still
being determined through deliberations in Congress.
WHY NATIONAL EDUCATIONAL GOALS?
The purpose of establishing
the Goals is twofold: first, to increase the achievement level of all students,
and second, to provide equal opportunity education for all students. The
decisions about what to teach our students have been, for the most part, based
on standardized multiple-choice tests and mass-market textbooks. This approach
has been criticized by many educators as focusing on low-level skills rather
than on the ability to solve problems and actually apply learning to real-world
situations. Setting goals and high, world-class standards on what students
should know and be able to do will increase the expectations that educators have
of their students and will let everyone know specifically what all students
should be learning.
A FEDERAL COMMITMENT TO THE GOALS
In May 1993, the Goals
2000: Educate America Act, backed by President Clinton and Secretary of
Education Richard Riley, was sent to Congress. This bill acknowledges the rights
of all children to an "opportunity to learn," to well-trained teachers, and to a
solid curriculum. The bill's objectives include the following: (1) developing
new state and local partnerships; (2) coordinating communication between states
and communities; (3) expanding outreach in rural, suburban, and urban areas to
encourage the forming of new coalitions; (4) improving the federal government's
communication with communities through such means as the monthly Satellite Town
Meeting, 1-800-USA-LEARN hotline, and regional conferences; and (5) increasing
technical assistance to help individual communities locate the information and
resources they need to help them achieve the Goals. Additionally, a GOALS 2000
Clearinghouse was created to assist communities seeking help with specific
problems or issues. You may write to the GOALS 2000 Clearinghouse at the U.S.
Department of Education, Room 2089, 400 Maryland Avenue SW, Washington, DC,
WHERE DOES OUR NATION STAND NOW?
The "National Education
Goals Report: Building A Nation of Learners, 1993" provides the most current
information on where our nation's schools stand in regard to achieving the Goals
and what progress has been made since the Goals were established. Some of the
key findings reported in the "Goals Report, 1993" are summarized in this Digest.
Also included are some of the findings from the "Goals Report, 1992" that were
not updated in the "Goals Report, 1993." To obtain a copy of the "Goals Report," contact the National Education Goals Panel, 1850 M Street NW, Suite 270,
Washington, DC 20036; 202-632-0952.
comparisons can be as beneficial as international comparisons in other fields
such as health or economics. By learning about the educational performance,
teaching methods, and policies of others, we can gain insight into the level of
performance we need to strive for and the types of education reforms that may
help us (or not help us) to achieve higher performance. Among the international
comparisons reported in the "Goals Report, 1992" are the following:
Lower Parent Expectations: Parents in Minneapolis reported that they were
very satisfied when their fifth-grade children performed at the 60th percentile
compared to other children in their city. Parents in Taiwan and Japanese cities
reported that they were not very satisfied with their children unless they
scored at or near the 80th percentile.
Lower Worker Expectations: American workers were much less likely than West
German and Japanese workers to report that they should be expected to think up
better ways to do their job or anticipate a need to upgrade their current job
Diminishing Lead in High School Completion Rates: In the past, the United
States consistently led other countries in high school and college completion
rates. Currently, however, both Germany and Japan have higher secondary school
completion rates for young adults, ages 25 to 34.
STATUS ON THE NATIONAL EDUCATION GOALS
below represents part of America's report card in relation to achieving the
National Education Goals. The data represent only a small portion of the
findings in the Goals Reports and were chosen because of their importance to
educators and their relevance to the Goal's objectives. The National Center for
Education Statistics is the original source from which the data were drawn.
GOAL 1: READINESS FOR SCHOOL
"By the year 2000, all children in America will start school ready to learn."
*Parent and Teacher Perceptions of School Readiness
- Both teachers and parents rated children's ability to communicate their
needs, wants, and thoughts verbally and to approach new activities with
enthusiasm as very important for school readiness. Teachers and parents
disagree, however, on the importance of knowing the alphabet and counting to 20,
with 58 to 59 percent of the parents believing these abilities to be important
and only 7 to 10 percent of the teachers stating that these skills are important
for children to possess before entering kindergarten.
*Preschool Program Enrollments
- Preschool enrollment almost doubled between 1973 and 1992; however, for 3-
to 5-year old children from low-income families the enrollment rate in 1992 was
only 27 percent, compared to 34 percent of children from middle-income families,
and 55 percent of children from high-income families.
- In 1993, 56 percent of all 3- to 5-year old children with disabilities were
enrolled in preschool; however, this percentage dropped to 51 percent for
children with disabilities whose family incomes were $30,000 or less.
*Family Involvement with Children
- Of all 3- to 5-year old children in 1993, nearly nine out of ten children
(88 percent) were involved in chores or brought along on errands by their
parents or family members in the previous month, while only 42 percent were
taken to a play, concert, live show, art gallery, museum, historical site, zoo,
or aquarium, and only 38 percent were taken to a library one or more times in
the previous month.
*Child Health and Nutrition
In 1993, 87 percent of all preschool-aged children had visited a doctor in
the last year for routine health care; about half (52 percent) visited a
- In 1986, 99 percent of all preschool children received the minimum
recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of protein in their diets. However, only
eight out of ten received the minimum RDA of vitamins A and C, only half
received the minimum RDA of calcium, and only one-fourth received the minimum
RDA of iron.
GOAL 2: HIGH SCHOOL COMPLETION
"By the year 2000, the high school graduation rate will increase to at least
- In 1992, the percentage of young people between 16 and 24 without a high
school diploma was 29 percent for Hispanic youth, 14 percent for African
American youth, and 8 percent for White youth.
- High school completion rates improved between 1975 and 1992 for African
American students by 10 percent and for White students by 5 percent; Hispanic
students, unfortunately, consistently have completion rates much lower than
other groups and actually dropped by 1 percent between 1975 and 1992. The
improvement among African American and White students was made in the early
1980s and has remained steady since then.
*Reasons for Dropping Out
- The primary reasons cited by dropouts in 1992 for leaving school were (1)
not liking school, (2) failing school, and (3) feeling unable to keep up with
*Dropouts Who Returned to High School
- Almost half (48 percent) of the 1980 sophomores who dropped out of school
returned and completed high school by 1986.
*Reasons for Returning to High School
- In 1990, dropouts who reported that they were somewhat or very likely to
return to school stated that they would return if they were (1) sure that they
could obtain a good job after graduation and (2) certain of graduation. Almost
50 percent of these dropouts reported that they would return if they could
attend night or weekend classes or if they could get tutoring.
GOAL 3: STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT AND CITIZENSHIP
"By the year 2000, American students will leave grades four, eight, and
twelve having demonstrated competency in challenging subject matter, including
English, mathematics, science, history, and geography; and every school in
America 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 modern economy."
*Competency in Math and Reading
- Between 1990 and 1992, the percentage of twelfth-graders who met the Goals
Panel's performance standard in mathematics increased slightly across all ethnic
- In 1992, 18 percent of all fourth-graders, 25 percent of all
eighth-graders, and 16 percent of all twelfth-graders had met the Goals Panel's
performance standards in mathematics.
- The percentage of students meeting the Goals Panel's standards in reading,
in 1992, was 25 percent of all fourth-graders, 28 percent of all eighth-graders,
and 37 percent of all twelfth-graders.
*Trends in Science Achievement
- Between 1970 and 1990, fourth-grade students' average score of proficiency
in science remained at Level 200--the understanding of simple scientific
principles; however, their average score did increase by nine points.
- Eighth-grade students' average score of proficiency in science between 1970
and 1990 increased from Level 200 to Level 250--the ability to apply basic
- Twelfth-grade students' average score of proficiency in science between
1970 and 1990 remained at Level 250.
*Advanced Placement Results in the Core Subjects of English, Mathematics,
Science, and History
- The number of students taking the Advanced Placement examinations in the
core subjects between 1986 and 1992 increased by 63 percent, with the highest
rate of increase among minority groups.
- Of those eleventh- and twelfth-graders who took the advanced placement
examinations in 1993 (85 out of every 1000 eleventh- and twelfth-graders) almost
two-thirds scored high enough to make them eligible for college credit.
- In 1988, 99 percent of all twelfth-graders understood the basics of civics,
such as elections, laws, and constitutional rights. Only 49 percent understood
the specific government structures and functions, and only 6 percent understood
the structures within the different branches of government, such as the Cabinet
and the judiciary.
- In 1992, only 44 percent of all twelfth-graders reported that they had
performed community service during the past two years. Of those students
performing community service, there were more female than male students, more
Asian students than students of other ethnic groups, and more Catholic high
school students than public or other private high school students.
GOAL 4: SCIENCE AND MATHEMATICS
"By the year 2000, U.S. students will be first in the world in science and
- In 1990, of all the eighth-grade science teachers surveyed about their
weekly class activities, only 62 percent reported that they did science
experiments, 10 percent used computers, and 14 percent assigned oral or written
reports. Only about half (56 percent) of the teachers felt that their laboratory
science facilities were adequate, 56 percent felt that they were well-supplied
with instructional materials, and 46 percent did not base what they taught their
students on textbooks.
- Of the eighth-grade math teachers surveyed in 1992 about their weekly class
activities, 51 percent had their students work in small groups, 49 percent place
a strong emphasis on developing the ability to solve unique problems, and 56
percent report that their students use calculators in their class at least once
*Student Attitudes Toward Science and Math
- The number of fourth-grade students reporting that they like math and
science is much greater than the number of eighth- and twelfth-grade students.
The decline in attitude toward math is greater between the fourth- and
twelfth-grade girls' attitudes than between the fourth- and twelfth-grade boys'
- The percentages of girls responding with "yes" to the question, "Do you
like science?" were 78 percent of the fourth-grade girls, 64 percent of the
eighth-grade girls, and 57 percent of the twelfth-grade girls.
- The percentages of boys responding with "yes" to the question, "Do you like
science?" were 81 percent of the fourth-grade boys, 72 percent of eighth-grade
boys, and 74 percent of the twelfth-grade boys.
- In 1992, the percentages of girls responding with "agree" or "strongly
agree" to the statement, "I like math" were 71 percent of the fourth-grade
girls, 55 percent of the eighth-grade girls, and 49 percent of the twelfth-grade
- The percentages of boys responding with "agree" or "strongly agree" to the
statement, "I like math" were 71 percent of the fourth-grade boys, 59 percent of
the eighth-grade boys, and 53 percent of the twelfth-grade boys.
GOAL 5: ADULT LITERACY AND LIFELONG LEARNING
"By the year 2000, every adult American will be literate and will possess the
knowledge and skills necessary to compete in a global economy and exercise the
rights and responsibilities of citizenship."
- Based on 1992 test results of adult literacy, almost half of all American
adults do not perform at the level of literacy considered by the National
Education Goals Panel to be important for competing successfully in a global
economy and for exercising the rights and responsibilities of citizenship.
*Participation in Adult Education and Worker Training
- During the 1990-91 school year, about one-third (34 percent) of all adults
were enrolled in adult education courses (this does not include adults enrolled
in full-time programs). The largest percentage of these adults were between 17
and 34 years old, with the 35 to 54 age range a close second.
- The percentage of workers participating in training to improve their
current job skills rose from 35 percent in 1983 to 41 percent in 1991.
*Barriers to Adult Education
- Almost two-thirds of the adults surveyed believed that barriers kept them
from participating in adult education during the 1990-91 school year.
- The most frequently cited barrier to education for these adults was their
work schedule (33 percent), with class cost (28 percent) and class times (26
percent) close behind. Other reasons for not participating in adult education
included class location (17 percent), lack of child care (15 percent), lack of
information (15 percent), and no classes of interest (14 percent).
GOAL 6: SAFE, DISCIPLINED, AND DRUG-FREE SCHOOLS
"By the year 2000, every school in America will be free of drugs and violence
and will offer a disciplined environment conducive to learning."
*Student Attitudes and Drug Use
- The use of alcohol and other drugs by twelfth-grade students has decreased.
In 1980, 72 percent of the twelfth-graders reported that they had used alcohol
in the past month; while in 1991, 54 percent of the twelfth-grade students
reported use of alcohol and other drugs in the prior month.
- In 1992, the percentages of students disapproving of adults having five or
more drinks in a row once or twice each weekend were 84 percent of eighth-grade
students, 78 percent of tenth-grade students, and 71 percent of twelfth-grade
- The percentages of students reporting in 1992 that they had had five or
more drinks in a row during the previous two weeks were 13 percent of
eighth-grade students, 21 percent of tenth-grade students, and 28 percent of
- In 1992, the percentages of students reporting marijuana use in the
previous month were 7 percent of eighth-grade students, 15 percent of
tenth-grade students, and 22 percent of twelfth-grade students; self-reported
cocaine use was 2 percent of eighth- and tenth-graders and 3 percent of
*School Discipline and Security
- Of the high school teachers surveyed in 1991, 68 percent felt that they had
substantial or complete disciplinary control over the students in their
classroom, a slight increase from 67 percent in 1988.
- Between 1990 and 1992, there was a decrease in the number of
twelfth-graders reporting that their property had been stolen.
The goods news found in this third annual "Goals
Report, 1993" is a slight decline in student victimization and use of alcohol
and other drugs among twelfth-graders and an increase in mathematics and science
achievement. In other areas, however, the "Report" shows a stagnation or
movement in the wrong direction, such as in the high school completion rate and
adult literacy. Additionally, there are significant "achievement gaps" and
differences in student, parental, and worker attitudes between our country and
other industrialized nations.
Overall, the "Goals Report, 1993" continues to illuminate how far our nation
is from reaching the Goals. A positive result of knowing about our nation's
education problems, however, is that this awareness should further motivate and
challenge us to institute the changes necessary to remain among the world's
leaders in education. Educators' and parents' tolerance for mediocrity will be
diminished and a commitment to education reform will be strengthened.
National Education Goals Panel. (September
1993). The National Education Goals Report: Building A Nation of Learners.
National Education Goals Panel. (September 1992). The National Education
Goals Report: Building A Nation of Learners. Washington, DC.
National Education Goals Panel. (February 1993). NEGP NEWS, 2(1). Office of
Educational Research and Improvement. (October 1992).
World Class Standards for American Education. Washington, DC.