National Archives Posts Primary Source Documents From Reagan Administration

This year celebrates 100 years since the birth of our 40th President, Ronald Reagan.  This month also marks the 24th anniversary of the What Works: Schools that Work booklet which President Reagan announced in a speech on May 20, 1987. This speech and other primary source documents from the President who was known as “the great communicator,” are now available online thanks to the National Archives.

The U.S. Department of Education publication, What Works: Schools that Work, Educating Disadvantaged Children, was the third in a series of What Works booklets. It highlighted exemplary schools that were successful at helping students achieve. The series spawned almost a generation’s worth of sophisticated tools to improve education, including: the Helping Your Child series for parents and succeeding spin-offs, such as the current Parent Power booklet; the What Works Clearinghouse of evidence-based materials and interventions; and the Doing What Works website, which  shows how to apply research findings to convey information through multimedia presentations, online digital workshops, and video interviews of experts.

The content of the speech is aligned in some respects with the Department’s messages about education today. What was important then is important now: college completion; parental involvement;  and P-12 education reform that focuses on the achievement gap and having measurable goals of student success.  

Students and others may be able to learn from this and other online primary sources from the National Archives at

Cynthia Dorfman
Office of Communications and Outreach