National Education Goals


At an education summit held in 1989, President George H. Bush and every state governor agreed upon 6 national education goals for the United States to achieve by the year 2000. Two more goals were added in 1994, and Congress passed legislation known as the National Education Goals. The goals created a framework for improving student achievement and refocusing the objectives of education. At the same time, the goals left specific tactics to state and local governments and to schools. Basically, the goals describe a general set of standards toward which all Americans should strive.

The National Educational Goals to be achieved by the year 2000 are:

  1. All children in the United States will start school ready to learn.
  2. The high school graduation rate will increase to at least 90 percent.
  3. U.S. students will leave grades 4, 8, and 12 having demonstrated competency in challenging subject matters, including English, mathematics, science, foreign languages, civics and government, economics, arts, history, and geography; every school will ensure that all students learn to use their minds well, so they may be prepared for responsible citizenship, further learning, and productive employment in our nation’s modern economy.
  4. The nation’s teaching force will have access to programs for the continued improvement of their professional skills and the opportunity to acquire the knowledge and skills needed to instruct and prepare all students for the next century.
  5. U.S. students will be first in the world in mathematics and science achievement.
  6. Every adult American will be literate and will possess the knowledge and skills necessary to compete in a global economy and to exercise the rights and responsibilities of citizenship.
  7. Every school in the United States will be free of alcohol and other drugs, violence, and the unauthorized presence of firearms and will offer a disciplined environment conducive to learning.
  8. Every school will promote partnerships that will increase parental involvement and participation in promoting the social, emotional, and academic growth of children.

The Goals 2000: Educate America Act codified the goals and established federal support for voluntary, state-based systemic reform. These include the development and implementation of high academic standards. The Act calls for state plans to include:

  • the development and implementation of content standards in core subjects
  • student assessments linked through performance standards
  • opportunity-to-learn standards or strategies

The Act also funds states’ efforts to support systematic state reform based on state-developed plans. Also as a part of the Act, Congress established the Goals Panel as a new independent federal agency. The 18-member bipartisan panel consists of 8 governors, 4 members of Congress, 4 state legislators, the secretary of U.S. Department of Education, and the assistant to the president for Domestic Policy.

The Goals Panel functions in the following ways:

  • monitors and reports progress towards the goals
  • builds a national consensus for the reforms necessary to achieve education improvement
  • reports on promising or effective actions being taken at the national, state, and local levels to achieve the goals
  • identifies actions that federal, state, and local governments should take to enhance progress towards achieving the goals and to provide all students with fair opportunity to learn
  • collaborates with the National Education Standards and Improvement Council to review the criteria for voluntary content, performance, and opportunity-to-learn standards

The dialogue about national goals among legislators, educators, and school board members throughout the United States is focused on improving education standards for all students in U.S. schools. This dialogue and the directives and funding embodied in federal legislation have led nearly every state to design and implement curricular frameworks or guidelines. Many states have even developed or are in the process of developing assessment instruments to monitor their schools’ progress towards higher standards.