Book Review

A Nation Reformed?

Reviewed by Perry Berkowitz Assistant Professor of Education Leadership and Administration, College of Saint Rose, Albany, N.Y.

A little more than 20 years ago, our nation’s schools were assaulted, not by automatic rifles or pipe bombs but by a barrage of incendiary words published under the auspices of the secretary of education, Terrel H.Bell, during the Reagan presidency.

In the introduction of this new book, A Nation Reformed?: American Education 20 Years After A Nation at Risk, David T. Gordon, editor of the Harvard Education Letter, reminds us that the same year the report was released Joe Clark became the best-known principal in an American high school. Gordon describes the authors of “A Nation at Risk” as having “wielded the rhetorical equivalent of Joe Clark’s bullhorn and baseball bat” on public education, educators and parents.

This book consists of a terrific set of essays that make it possible to move well beyond the rhetoric and emotion of 1983. They are written by an extraordinarily distinguished group of educators, policymakers, practitioners and researchers, including Patricia Alberg Graham, former dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Education; Susan Fuhrman of the University of Pennsylvania; Nathan Glazer of Harvard; Jeff Howard, founder of the Efficacy Institute; and Timothy Knowles, deputy superintendent of the Boston Public Schools.

The essays take stock in a comprehensive and multi-perspective way of the era of school reform that was triggered by “A Nation at Risk” in 1983. A Nation Reformed? is a must read in this era of standards-based reform and the extraordinary federal involvement in local schools under President Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act.

(A Nation Reformed?: American Education 20 Years After A Nation at Risk edited by David T. Gordon, Harvard Education Press, Cambridge, Mass., 2003, 232 pp. with index, $21.95 softcover)