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NEPC Review: A Complete Education (May 2010)

The research summary, A Complete Education, presents the Obama administration’s proposal for ensuring that all students have a comprehensive education. The key areas include: strengthening instruction in literacy and in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM); increasing access to instruction in a broader range of subject matter; and providing new opportunities for accelerated learning, particularly for low-income students in high-need schools. The report emphasizes literacy and STEM education, and its recommendations are based on several well-regarded and thoughtful reports from private foundations, professional associations, and national science groups. At the same time, however, the report’s literature review is overly selective and superficial, neglecting significant research. The administration’s research summary would have benefited from broader definitions of literacy directly relevant to its aims and from findings from innovative and successful instructional designs in literacy and STEM for low-income students of color. Other significant weaknesses in the report include: (a) the subordination of liberal arts education to literacy and STEM, even though the report asserts the importance of broad-based education; (b) the reliance on competitive grants without explaining either the research rationale or how the non-funded groups would be served; (c) the emphasis on state-level reforms without research support for this strategy; and (d) the use of test score results as the unquestioned measure of learning and achievement.

Suggested Citation: Warren, B. (2010). Review of "A Complete Education." Boulder, CO: National Education Policy Center. Retrieved [date] from

Document Reviewed:

A Complete Education

U.S. Department of Education
U.S. Department of Education