Center on Educational Excellence

In April 1983 the National Commission on Excellence in Education published its landmark study, A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform. This startling report was a response to “the widespread public perception that something [was] seriously remiss in our educational system.” It revealed major deficiencies in the United States’ educational system—especially in secondary education—and warned that Americans’ economic and social well-being would be threatened if the system were not improved.

The study famously declared that, “if an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war.”

The authors found that “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.” More than twenty years later, the situation has not improved. Despite enormous increases in state and federal funding devoted to education, the United States’ educational system is in worse shape than ever.

As we proceed into the twenty-first century, the American K–12 and higher education system is increasingly second rate, expensive, and getting worse. It is bogged down in a morass of mediocrity, politics, and bureaucracy. Why is this so? And what is to be done?

The Independent Institute’s Center on Educational Excellence carefully examines these and other questions. Its mission is to examine the educational crisis facing Americans, and to chart a course for the achievement of educational excellence for all.