Well, in reality I think it is worse today because the onslaught is so obvious. The media has bombarded the public with poor teacher images, and there is not a single party to defend public education. It's gone bipartisan.
In the 80s when Reagan's administration put out the report called Nation at Risk, it caught teachers off guard. I had then taught many years, and my fellow teachers and I had no idea why suddenly we were being talked about so negatively.
The schools were not failing, there was no more crisis then than there is now. Our students were learning, and they were scoring well on the national testing (ours for years was the Iowa Test of Basic Skills). We were given our reports when we turned in our graded tests in stanine format. These scores range from a low of 1 to a high of 9. In our district our students were averaging 7 or 8, and in our school closer to 8.
And yes, we graded them for hours. They actually trusted us to do so.
A few years ago I read an article by the late great Gerald Bracey about his interviewing and working with a VP of Sandia labs and one of the researchers on the study called "Perspective on Education In America", better known as the Sandia report. It painted a different picture of our schools.
The report was not made public except in on obscure journal, and it is almost impossible to find online today.
The draft of The Sandia report closed with "There are many problems in American public schools, but there is no system-wide crisis." This was too positive for Ravitch, then assistant secretary education in the now defunct Office for Educational Research and Improvement, and Secretaries of Education and Energy, Lamar Alexander and James Watkins.
Almost precisely 17 years ago, Lee Bray, the Sandia vice president who had overseen the analysis flew up to Denver to show me the 156 page report. I had written an Education Week commentary arguing that the SAT decline had been much smaller than people thought (in fact, I was only riffing off the College Board's own panel which had produced On Further Examination). Bray said he had a lot of data on other indicators that corroborated my conclusions. He did.
Bob Huelskamp, one of the three engineers who authored the report returned some three months later to present it to me and some administrators in the Cherry Creek School District. I said we should take all of the data I had collected (substantially more by then than when I wrote the SAT piece) and the Sandia data and publish them all in one place. Huelskamp said, "We can't. We've got internal political problems."
Here is more:
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."I started looking stuff up on this a day or so ago when I found out that links I had posted from Project Censored on the topic did not work. I did a search there and found a little of the article, but with a caveat.
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."
From Project Censored 1994:
Here is what was added at the end:
COMMENTS: Given the reception Project Censored received when we contacted Sandia National Laboratories for follow-up information (as we do with all original sources), we are hardly surprised that the media have not given the Sandia study more coverage. At best, we can say that Sandia doesn't want to discuss the study in any way.He also added: "We continue to support what the article says."
When we contacted Bob Huelskamp, author of the Phi Delta Kappan article, he said that Sandia was not interested in replying to our questionnaire and that all further inquiries should be directed to a public information official by the name of Al Stotts. When Mr. Stotts didn't return our call of December 13, we tried again on the 16th and were told that he was on vacation until after New Year's day. But we were told to contact Jerry Langheim who would be able to help us. As it turned out, Mr. Langheim was out ill and wouldn't be back until after the first of the new year. But we were told to contact Rod Geer who would be able to help us.
We were finally able to reach Mr. Geer on December 17.
When I explained the Project to Geer, he responded, "We're not going to fill out the form and send it back to you.... It was published in the Phi Delta Kappan...and we consider ourselves finished with that business."
I also found more on this topic at a blog called On the Edge from 2003. The writer was equally frustrated at the lack of information on this report. The article references a book by David C. Berliner and Bruce J. Biddle titled The Manufactured Crisis: Myths, Fraud, and the Attack on America's Public Schools.
It explains in very clear detail about what standardized testing actually measures, and of course it deals with the ongoing propaganda by the far right in undermining public schools. One of the highlights is the authors' discussion of the suppression of the Sandia Report, excerpts from pages 165-168:A couple of years ago Edutopia blog summed up differences found in Reagan's report and in the Sandia report.
"This report, initially prepared in 1990 by officials of the Sandia National Laboratories, a component of the U.S. Department of Energy, documents a careful analysis of the status of American education. Major findings in The Sandia Report flatly contradicted claims about education that were then being peddled by President Bush in his administration, so the report was squelched.
...""But America is a wonderful land, where photocopying machines abound, and within a few months scores of draft copies of the report had been 'leaked' and were floating around the country.
...""The trouble with suppressing evidence is that it leads to policy errors that can ruin people's lives..."
"A Nation at Risk" (1983)I have always felt that the education "reformers" could not succeed unless they made public schools and the teachers in those schools look bad. They have done a good job of that, and there seems to be no one defending teachers and schools against the attacks. It's not hard to guess who will win.
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.