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Madfloridian's Journal
Posted by madfloridian in General Discussion (1/22-2007 thru 12/14/2010)
Fri Mar 05th 2010, 12:26 AM
The report that showed that schools were improving across the board never saw the light of day. We are paying for that censorship today with the loss of our public education which is being turned over to private companies.

The Sandia Report On Education: A Perfect Lesson In Censorship

Sources: PHI DELTA KAPPAN; Date: May 1993, Title: "Perspective on Education In America,"* Author: Robert M. Huelskamp; THE EDUCATION DIGEST, Date: September 1993, Title: "The Second Coming of the Sandia Report," reprinted from Phi Delta Kappan; U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT, Date: 10/18/93, Title: "School choice: Its time has come," Author: Michael Barone

SYNOPSIS: One of the most thorough investigations into public education did not produce the expected results and instead, ended up being censored.
When state governors and President George Bush set national education goals after the 1989 education summit, the administration charged Sandia National Laboratories, a scientific research organization, with investigating the state of public education.

In 1991, Sandia presented its first findings to the U.S. Department of Education and the National Science Foundation. While the response from these government agencies should have been one of some celebration, instead it was one of silence -- a silence compounded by the national media. The results did not reveal a seriously deficient educational system in dire need of profound changes such as a nationwide voucher program. And the report was suppressed.


What the report found:

Briefly, the Sandia Report did find the following: on nearly every measure employed in the survey, a steady or slightly improving trend was identified in public education. Overall, the high school completion rate in the U.S. at 85 percent ranks as one of the highest in the world. The dropout rate is inflated by a growing immigrant school population. SAT results often reported as falling do so not because of decreasing student performance but because of increased participation from students in the lower percentiles, a factor not always found when comparing results to other countries. One quarter of young people will achieve a bachelor's degree. Spending on education, often characterized as out of control, has risen by 30 percent but this has gone into special education programs, not the "regular" classroom.


More on the findings:

Given the range and insights that the Sandia Report produced, it was remarkable this information did not form the basis for the 1992 education debate. The lack of coverage of the report, and the rancor with which the report was met from government departments and, more importantly, from the "Education President," George Bush, was astounding. Clearly, the findings of the report contradicted the political philosophy of "deregulating" public education and would have seriously weakened the "choice movement." The fact that eight of the 10 Nobel winners announced this year in economics, medicine, physics, chemistry, and literature were Americans similarly failed to give the anti-public school group much ammunition.

The Sandia Report is so threatening to the anti-public-school lobby that those supporting school choice initiatives still refuse to acknowledge its existence. In an impassioned plea for "school choice," published in US News & World Report, writer Michael Barone cites the 1983 "Nation at Risk" Report while ignoring the more recent Sandia Report.


Ah yes, Ronald Reagan's Nation at Risk got all the hype and attention. It started us on the path of distrust for public education. It was actually the beginning of the end for public schools.

In California Mr. Reagan had made political hay by heaping scorn on college students and their professors. As President his administration's repeatedly issued or encouraged uncommonly bitter denunciations of public education. William Bennett, the President's demagogic Secretary of Education, took the lead in this. He toured the nation making unprecedented and unprincipled attacks on most aspects of public education including teacher certification, teacher's unions and the "multi-layered, self-perpetuating, bureaucracy of administrators that weighs down most school systems." "The Blob" was what Bennett dismissively called them.

Three years into his first term Mr. Reagan's criticism of public education reached a crescendo when he hand picked a "blue ribbon" commission that wrote a remarkably critical and far-reaching denunciation of public education. Called "A Nation At Risk," this document charged that the US risked losing the economic competition among nations due to a "... rising tide of (educational) mediocrity that threatens our very future as a Nation and a people." (The commissioners did not consider the possibility that US firms were uncompetitive because of corporate mismanagement, greed and short sightedness.)After "A Nation At Risk" the nation's public schools were fair game for every ambitious politician or self-important business boss in the country. Its publication prompted a flood of follow-up criticism of public education as "blue ribbon" and "high level" national commissions plus literally hundreds of state panels wrote a flood of reform reports. Most presupposed that the charges made by Mr. Reagan's handpicked panel were true. Oddly though, throughout this entire clamor, parental confidence in the school's their children attended remained remarkably high. Meanwhile Mr. Reagan was quietly halving federal aid to education.


The late great educator, Gerald Bracey, wrote of this report at Huffington Post in 2007. He pointed out that many suspected it would be suppressed. He was right.

Righting Wrongs

I think it is inherent among engineers to practice understatement. What had actually happened was that the Sandia group had gone to Washington and presented the report to department of energy and department of education staff and some Congressmen. At the end, David Kearns, former CEO of Xerox and then Deputy Secretary of Education said, "You bury this or I'll bury you." Ravitch has denied Kearns said this. Huelskamp has affirmed it. An article in Education Week said only that "administration officials, particularly Mr. Kearns, reacted angrily at the meeting." The article also contained allegations of suppression and denials of such ("Report Questioning 'Crisis' in Education Triggers an Uproar," October 9, 1991).


Diane Ravitch has done an about face and is fighting hard against the new school reform.

The engineers did get buried, being forbidden at one point to leave New Mexico to talk about their findings. "Dead wrong" was how Secretary of Energy James Watkins (Energy funds Sandia) described the report in the September 30, 1991 issue of the Albuquerque Journal. "It is a call for complacency when just the opposite is required," he said. (It amazes me that each time someone points out that the educational sky is not actually falling, those who say it is lose all capacity for logic and accuse that the non-Chicken Littles of being messengers of complacency. In a badly argued, extremely simplistic Washington Post op-ed, Ravitch pinned that label on me and the Sandia engineers, along with Iris Rotberg, then of the National Science Foundation ("U. S. Schools: The Bad News Is Right," November 17, 1991); typical distorting sentence: " say it is not fair to compare ourselves to countries like Japan and Korea because they value education and we do not").

Ravitch denied at an AERA meeting that the report was being suppressed. The official story was that it was undergoing peer review by the U. S. Department of Education and the National Science Foundation and that it was not ready for publication. It is to NCES' Emerson Elliott's and NSF's Peter House' everlasting shame that they agreed to have their agencies collude in this political charade and signed dishonest letters to Ravitch about what the reviews had shown. It was, of course, insulting and unprecedented that a report from one agency be peer-reviewed by other agencies.

Five years after Lee Bray retired, I called him. He was not enthusiastic about reopening old wounds, but when I asked him directly if the report had been suppressed he said, "Yes, it was definitely suppressed."

The Education Week article on The Sandia Report closed with the prediction that "Administration officials will use a lengthy review process to bury the report." Indeed, it was never published.
It appeared in print only when Jim Raths of the University of Delaware and then an editor at the Journal of Educational Research made it the entirety of the May/June 1993 issue of that small journal. Because nearly 20 years have passed, most people don't know either of the report or the suppression that followed. But that act of suppression sits like Banquo's ghost at the banquet table, seen, in this case, not only by Macbeth, but by to those of us who witnessed the murder.


Bracey was right. I wish he had lived to see the report brought to light.

The blogger called The Perimeter Primate shows summaries of Reagan's Nation at Risk report which got all the attention and the Sandia report.

"A Nation at Risk" (1983)

What the report claimed:

American students are never first and frequently last academically compared to students in other industrialized nations.
American student achievement declined dramatically after Russia launched Sputnik, and hit bottom in the early 1980s.
SAT scores fell markedly between 1960 and 1980.
Student achievement levels in science were declining steadily.
Business and the military were spending millions on remedial education for new hires and recruits.
The Sandia Report (1990)

What was actually happening:

Between 1975 and 1988, average SAT scores went up or held steady for every student subgroup.
Between 1977 and 1988, math proficiency among seventeen-year-olds improved slightly for whites, notably for minorities.
Between 1971 and 1988, reading skills among all student subgroups held steady or improved.
Between 1977 and 1988, in science, the number of seventeen-year-olds at or above basic competency levels stayed the same or improved slightly.
Between 1970 and 1988, the number of twenty-two-year-old Americans with bachelor degrees increased every year; the United States led all developed nations in 1988.


And another must read from 2007 called Education at Risk, Fall Out from a Flawed Report.

Edutopia on a flawed Report

Reporters fell on the report like a pack of hungry dogs. The next day, "A Nation at Risk" made the front pages.

Once launched, the report, which warned of "a rising level of mediocrity," took off like wildfire. During the next month, the Washington Post alone ran some two dozen stories about it, and the buzz kept spreading. Although Reagan counselor (and, later, attorney general) Edwin Meese III urged him to reject the report because it undermined the president's basic education agenda -- to get government out of education -- White House advisers Jim Baker and Michael Deaver argued that "A Nation at Risk" provided good campaign fodder.

Reagan agreed, and, in his second run for the presidency, he gave fifty-one speeches calling for tough school reform. The "high political payoff," Bell wrote in his memoir, "stole the education issue from Walter Mondale -- and it cost us nothing."

What made "A Nation at Risk" so useful to Reagan? For one thing, its language echoed the get-tough rhetoric of the growing conservative movement. For another, its diagnosis lent color to the charge that, under liberals, American education had dissolved into a mush of self-esteem classes.

In truth, "A Nation at Risk" could have been read as almost any sort of document. Basically, it just called for "More!" -- more science, more math, more art, more humanities, more social studies, more school days, more hours, more homework, more basics, more higher-order thinking, more lower-order thinking, more creativity, more everything.


More of everything, less depth, and the beginning of "zero tolerance".

Now the clamor is still happening for more "lower-order" thinking, more hours, more tests...in fact many more.

The media now is refusing to truly cover the private takeover of public education under a Democratic administration. Oh, maybe an article now and then, but not very much.

What is being done now can not be undone in the future. Deregulating schools, privatizing them...we can't unring that bell.

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