The History of Education in America

The History of Education in America

  • The first public schools in America offered a very different curriculum compared to what is taught today. Initially, public schools focused more on religion, family, and morality, and didn’t find the nature of academic instruction terribly important. Also, education for girls was limited. Girls learned how to read, but did not learn how to write.
  • Academics didn’t become a popular concept in the public school system until the 1850s. At that point, concepts like math and reading were introduced to promote literacy.
  • In the 1850s, public school attendance was at 59%.
  • Although it took some time for the public school system to grow in American, by 1900 thirty-one states were requiring children to attend public schools from the ages of 8-14. The demand for a public education continued to grow, and by 1918 all states required that children at least complete elementary school.
  • From the 1920s on, more academic subjects were introduced. Schools focused on math, English, and social studies.
  • In the 1950s, public school attendance rose to 75%.
  • The Every Student Succeeds Acts (ESSA) replaced the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act. It Allows the federal government to retain a role in public education but places the primary responsibility on the states when it comes to establishing standards. The ESSA advances equity among students and requires high standards of learning for all students, further preparing them for college and careers.
  • Today, public school attendance is at 94%.

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