In the early 1980s the educational policy catchword changed from equity to excellence. Battles had raged during the 1960s and 1970s over expanding educational equity and opportunity, and many Americans who had been excluded from the mainstream emerged as winners. The percentage of Americans graduating from high school rose from 50 percent in 1950 to 75 percent in 1980. In the 1970s the Education for All Handicapped Children Act had assured young Americans with disabilities of access to educational opportunities. From 1968 to 1978 the percentage of black student enrollment in colleges grew from 6.4 percent to more than 10 percent; for women, the numbers went from 39 percent to 48 percent. By the early 1980s access to higher education was nearly universal. A College Board study found in 1982 that one-third of all postsecondary institutions were "open door" (meaning any high-school graduate could attend), significantly fewer were "selective" (taking only those who qualified), and only 8 percent of colleges were "competitive" (accepting only a portion of those qualified).
The Pendulum Swings.
Having successfully pursued goals of increased participation, educators in the late 1970s were vilified for neglecting the quality of education. By the late 1970s a groundswell of criticism emerged as Americans, who...
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