Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 1996


Education reform


According to Elliot W. Eisner of Stanford University, education reform efforts for American schools have not exactly been ”a novel enterprise." In the late 1950s, the Space Race pressured Congress to turn to American education to help regain and maintain our technological superiority. The result was the curriculum reform movement of the 1960s. In the 1970s "accountability" became the central focus of reformers. Then, in April of 1983, A Nation at Risk was published only to give way, by the close of that century, to America 2000, the reform agenda of the Bush Administration, which aimed to do what all the previous movements were unable to accomplish. Yet even today, with Clinton's Goals 2000 promoting improved national standards, little more than the face of reform has changed. As Eisner surmises, "We seem to latch on to approaches to reform that are replays of past efforts that themselves failed to come to grips with what it is that makes school practices so robust and resistant to change." (Eisner, pp. 758-759)

In a small, rural Whatcom County high school a localized attempt to break the national mold of ineffective education reform has taken place. The offspring of teacher concern and collaboration and not of a national or state-mandated agenda, the impetus for change was familiar, disturbing trends in student performance and student disconnection from school. The changes, however were unique and, in the view of many, too radical. What follows is a documentation, though not completely thorough, of one high school's attempt to revolutionize "school practices" in order to engage and empower students toward meaningful learning and academic success. Their efforts have brought them face to face with powerful forces which make "school practices so robust and resistant to change." The lessons afforded by their experience can be appreciated by those involved in public education, for sure, but also by anyone who may at some time have the courage to be an instrument of change, however unpopular.


Secondary Education

Subjects - Topical (LCSH)

Educational change--Washington (State)--Whatcom County--Case studies

Geographic Coverage

Whatcom County (Wash.)


student projects; term papers




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