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A Nation at Risk

Dr. Sylvester Perez1

April 30, 2012

Dear SAISD Staff,

First, to our administrative professionals – I hope you had a great Administrative Professionals Day and week. Often, you are the face of your school, department or division. You help shape the first impressions of our clients (students, parents and community members), and therefore, help provide a proper beginning to a relationship. Please know that you are appreciated and valued.

Also, last week marked the 29th anniversary of the release of “A Nation at Risk,” the sobering 1983 report that focused on the erosion of America’s educational foundations and the education system’s rise in mediocrity. According to the report, what was unimaginable a generation ago had begun to occur – other countries were starting to out-perform American schools.

As a nation, we are still working to reverse that trend, even if all parties involved don’t always agree on the strategies being used to achieve that goal (e.g. standardized testing, March 26 Weekly Address). That aside, I think it does us educators good to reflect on the report’s message from time to time as a way of reminding ourselves about how we fit into the greater educational landscape and of measuring our individual and collective progress.

Here are some excerpts from the report:

“Our society and its educational institutions seem to have lost sight of the basic purposes of schooling and of the high expectations and disciplined effort needed to attain them….That we have compromised this commitment is, upon reflection, hardly surprising, given the multitude of often conflicting demands we have placed on our Nation's schools and colleges. They are routinely called on to provide solutions to personal, social, and political problems that the home and other institutions either will not or cannot resolve. We must understand that these demands on our schools and colleges often exact an educational cost as well as a financial one.”

“The people of the United States need to know that individuals in our society who do not possess the levels of skill, literacy, and training essential to this new era will be effectively disenfranchised, not simply from the material rewards that accompany competent performance, but also from the chance to participate fully in our national life.”

“All, regardless of race or class or economic status, are entitled to a fair chance and to the tools for developing their individual powers of mind and spirit to the utmost. This promise means that all children, by virtue of their own efforts, competently guided, can hope to attain the mature and informed judgment needed to secure gainful employment, and to manage their own lives, thereby serving not only their own interests but also the progress of society itself.”

“Each generation of Americans has outstripped its parents in education, in literacy and in economic attainment. For the first time in the history of our country, the educational skills of one generation will not surpass, will not equal, will not even approach, those of their parents. It is important, of course, to recognize that the average citizen today is better educated and more knowledgeable than the average citizen a generation ago – more literate and exposed to more mathematics, literature, and science.”

“We have heard the voices of high school and college students, school board members and teachers, of leaders in industry, minority groups, and higher education; of parents and state officials. We could hear the hope evident in their commitment to quality education and in their descriptions of outstanding programs and schools. We could also hear the intensity of their frustration, a growing impatience with shoddiness in many walks of American life, and the complaint that this shoddiness is too often reflected in our schools and colleges. Their frustration threatens to overwhelm their hope.”

I know. It’s not exactly the most uplifting of messages, even now, nearly three decades after its release. However, it’s an important message because the work of addressing the issues raised in the report is happening each and every day – at our schools, in our classrooms and at our District offices.

I hope this report brings to mind the areas in which we’ve made progress, as well as those  where we’ve yet to move the needle.

Best regards,
Dr. Sylvester Perez
Interim Superintendent

"Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success." – Henry Ford

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