Date of Award


Document Type

Dissertation - Restricted

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Angeline K. Capelka

Second Advisor

William Pink


On April 26, 1983, the National Commission on Excellence in Education issued their report entitled A Nation At Risk : The Imperative for Educational Reform . This report was the first and most prominent of a proliferation of high-profile national reports that would define the modern reform movement of the 1980s. Fifteen years later, A Nation At Risk still serves as a catalyst for educational change initiative's and is the benchmark against which reform efforts continue to be measured. The ability of A Nation At Risk to capture and hold the attention of modern educational reform provided the incentive for this study. As this report continues to be appraised, debated, and critiqued in the literature, questions about its impact and its sustaining effects on reform surface and demand attention. Prior to this study, however, the conversation had essentially taken place independent of the people who wrote A Nation At Risk . With few exceptions, commission members had not been involved in an appraisal of this document and reflection on the work of the commission since the initial flurry of media coverage following the release of the report. The intention of this study was to extend the discussion of A Nation At Risk to include its authors: by inviting them to share their reflections and perceptions fifteen years later. Twelve of the original commission members were interviewed for this study. They were presented questions that targeted several analytic domains: formation of the commission, commission dynamics, scope of the report, reception of the report, the report's impact, an appraisal of the current state of education, educational remedies, and member perceptions about how education has changed over the past fifteen years. Their responses form a collective story that is both fascinating and informative. The story of A Nation At Risk , as told by the commissioners in this study, has broad implications for the future of educational reform. As the nation continues to seek new insights and solutions for the improvement of its educational system, this study offers a unique perspective that has the potential to inform the debate and make an important contribution to the literature.



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