This article traces the conception of "the problem with the public school" as represented in 3 reform documents: A Nation at Risk (1983), the National Education Summit Policy Statement (1996), and the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB). I examine the problem definitions and solutions manifested in each reform for beliefs about student motivation to learn. These beliefs in turn are compared to research illustrations of student motivation obtained in each reform period. The article ends with suggestions for "small changes" in classroom practices that might improve student motivation to learn, promote the goals of NCLB, and enhance the healthy development of children.
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