National Education Goals

Russell Yates

July, 1999

In preparing for this paper a number of internet sources were studied, the most helpful being the Goals 2000 Legislation and Related Items Web site at: When looking at the scorecard produced by the National Educational Goals Panel, (, my state of Washington does not stand out as either good or bad when comparing progress towards the eight national education goals between my state and other states. When comparing progress between Washington and the U.S. average, Washington progressed further in 3 out of the 15 comparable categories. Washington experienced the same amount of progress or lack of progress in 8 out of the 15 categories, and my state fell behind in 4 out of the 15 categories that were measured for both the U.S. and Washington State. All of the categories in which my state did better than the national average showed no change whereas the U.S. average showed a drop. In all but one of the categories, the U.S. showed progress where Washington stayed the same. In the 19 categories that had both a baseline and an update for the state, 3 showed a negative change, 10 showed no change, and 6 showed positive gain. In this study, the baseline data was gathered between 1988 and 1993, while the update data was gathered between 1995 and 1997. This is important to consider because although Washington state had begun the process of renewal of academic standards and of assessment of those standards, that process is still going on. Only within the last two years has it been felt on the local level in such a way as to stimulate meaningful curriculum renewal. For this reason it would be very interesting to see another update of this study within the next couple of years. As per our new state standards, more students of all ages met the standards last school year then have during the previous two years. As has been stated in our textbook, lasting and meaningful change takes time, which is precisely what we are seeing in Washington state. It is also interesting to note the different way that our goals are stated.
Washington State's education goals call for students to:
1. Read, write and communicate;
2. Know, and apply concepts of math, science, and other core subjects;
3. Think, analytically, make reasoned judgments, solve problems; and
4. Understand, the connection between learning and opportunities in life and work.
These goals and the Essential academic Learning Requirements that go with them are our state's response to the nationwide push for higher academic standards. When measuring Washington state students against our own goals, progress in both norm-referenced and criterion-referenced tests has shown improvement over the last couple of years in all areas. This information comprises some of the evidence that our state's push for curriculum renewal is on the right track.

In my school, the emphasis has been on our new state standards, on what changes in the curriculum as experienced by our students can help us better meet these standards. We have had almost no conversations on Goals 2000. My belief is that since they represent a tier above the state standards, the staff regards the national goals as something that should not directly be dealt with by our faculty. Our state and district frameworks have much more depth and meaning to what we are trying to accomplish in our building than do the national goals. Moreover, by working to accomplish our state standards, we are also helping to accomplish many of the national goals. I tend to agree with this although I think it is in our best interest to consider and discuss the national goals on occasion.

If, as a non-politician, I were to rewrite the national goals they would look something like this:
Goals are something to strive towards; they aren't always easy to accomplish or even to meet. The following national goals for education are attainable but will also be a challenge for us as a nation, a challenge worthy of our nation's ingenuity and resourcefulness.
1. Positive parenting skills will be demonstrated by an increasing percentage of parents of school age children each year until it nears 100 percent.
2. The percentage of children ready to learn when they start school will increase each year until it nears 100 percent.
3. The percentage of children graduating from high school will increase each year until it nears 100 percent.
4. The percentage of students demonstrating academic competency and the ability to apply their knowledge to lifelike situations will increase each year until it nears 100 percent.
5. The percentage of adult literacy, including civic knowledge, will increase each year until it nears 100 percent.
6. Every school will strive to increase the percentage of drug-free school children and decrease the exposure to violence on school grounds each year.

However, if I were a politician they would probably look very similar to how they were originally written. After all, a politician has to please the public, not necessarily educators.

Web sites used as sources:

U.S. Department of Education, Goals 2000 Legislation and Related Items
The National Education Goals Panel
Washington Education Homepage (OSPI)
CISL:OSPI - Assessment Reports

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