American Educational History: A Hypertext TimelineLast updated May 30, 2018.
See the lesson plan designed for use with this timeline.
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1607 – The first permanent English settlement in North America is established by the Virginia Company at Jamestown in what is now the state of Virginia.
1620 - The Mayflower arrives at Cape Cod, bringing the "Pilgrims" who establish the Plymouth Colony. Many of the Pilgrims are Puritans who had fled religious persecution in England. Their religious views come to dominate education in the New England colonies.
1635 - The first Latin Grammar School (Boston Latin School) is established. Latin Grammar Schools are designed for sons of certain social classes who are destined for leadership positions in church, state, or the courts.
1635 - The first "free school" in Virginia opens. However, education in the Southern colonies is more typically provided at home by parents or tutors.
1636 - Harvard College, the first higher education institution in what is now the United States, is established in Newtowne (now Cambridge), Massachusetts.
1638 - The first printing press in the American Colonies is set up at Harvard College.
1638 - Hartford Public High School opens in Hartford Connecticut. It is "the second oldest secondary school in the United States."
1640 - Henry Dunster becomes President of Harvard College. He teaches all the courses himself!
1642 - The Massachusetts Bay School Law is passed. It requires that parents ensure their children know the principles of religion and the capital laws of the commonwealth.1647 - The Massachusetts Law of 1647, also known as the Old Deluder Satan Act, is passed. It decrees that every town of at least 50 families hire a schoolmaster who would teach the town's children to read and write and that all towns of at least 100 families should have a Latin grammar school master who will prepare students to attend Harvard College.
1690 - John Locke publishes his Essay Concerning Human Understanding, which conveys his belief that the human mind is a tabula rasa, or blank slate, at birth and knowledge is derived through experience, rather than innate ideas as was believed by many at that time. Locke's views concerning the mind and learning greatly influence American education.
1690 - The first New England Primer is printed in Boston. It becomes the most widely-used schoolbook in New England.
1692 - The Plymouth Colony merges with the Massachusetts Bay Colony. About 50 miles to the north, in Salem, the infamous Salem Witch Trials take place.
1693 - John Locke's Some Thoughts Concerning Education is published, describing his views on educating upper class boys to be moral, rationally-thinking, and reflective "young gentlemen." His ideas regarding educating the masses are conveyed in On Working Schools, published in 1697, which focused on the importance of developing a work ethic.
1693 - The College of William and Mary is established in Virginia. It is the second college to open in colonial America and has the distinction of being Thomas Jefferson's college.
1698 - The first publicly supported library in the U.S. is established in Charles Town, South Carolina. Two years later, the General Assembly of South Carolina passes the first public library law.
1710 - Christopher Dock, a Mennonite and one of Pennsylvania's most famous educators, arrives from Germany and later opens a school in Montgomery County, PA. Dock's book, Schul-Ordnung (meaning school management), published in 1770, is the first book about teaching printed in colonial America. Typical of those in the middle colonies, schools in Pennsylvania are established not only by the Mennonites, but by the Quakers and other religious groups as well.
1727 - The Ursuline Academy of New Orleans is founded. A Catholic school for girls sponsored by Sisters of the Order of Saint Ursula, it is "the oldest continuously operating school for girls and the oldest Catholic school in the United States."
1734 – Christian Wolff describes the human mind as consisting of powers or faculties. Called Faculty Psychology, this doctrine holds that the mind can best be developed through "mental discipline" or tedious drill and repetition of basic skills and the eventual study of abstract subjects such as classical philosophy, literature, and languages. This viewpoint greatly influences American education throughout the 19th Century and beyond.
1743 - Benjamin Franklin forms the American Philosophical Society, which helps bring ideas of the European Enlightenment, including those of John Locke, to colonial America. Emphasizing secularism, science, and human reason, these ideas clash with the religious dogma of the day, but greatly influence the thinking of prominent colonists, including Franklin and Thomas Jefferson.
1751 - Benjamin Franklin helps to establish the first "English Academy" in Philadelphia with a curriculum that is both classical and modern, including such courses as history, geography, navigation, surveying, and modern as well as classical languages. The academy ultimately becomes the University of Pennsylvania.
1752 - St. Matthew Lutheran School, one of the first Lutheran "parish schools" in North America, is founded in New York City by Henry Melchior Muhlenberg, after whom Muhlenberg College in Allentown Pennsylvania is named.
1754 - The French and Indian War begins in colonial America as the French and their Indian allies fight the English for territorial control.
1762 - Swiss-born Jean-Jacques Rousseau's book, Emile, ou l'education, which describes his views on education, is published. Rousseau's ideas on the importance early childhood are in sharp contrast with the prevailing views of his time and influence not only contemporary philosophers, but also 20th-Century American philosopher and educational reformer John Dewey.
1763 - The French are defeated, and the French and Indian War ends with the Treaty of Paris. It gives most French territory in North America to England.
1766 - The Moravians, a protestant denomination from central Europe, establish the village of Salem in North Carolina. Six years later (1772), they found a school for girls, which later becomes Salem College, a liberal arts college for women with a current enrollment of approximately 1100.
1775 - The Revolutionary War begins.
1776 - The Declaration of Independence is adopted by the Continental Congress on July 4th. Written by Thomas Jefferson, The document serves notice to King George III and the rest of the world that the American Colonies no longer considered themselves part of the British Empire.
1778/1779 - Thomas Jefferson authors Bill 79: "A Bill for the More General Diffusion of Knowledge," which provides "a comprehensive plan for public education . . ." It is presented in the Virginia House of Delegates several times before a revised bill titled, "An Act to Establish Public Education," is finally passed in 1796.
1783 - The Revolutionary War officially ends with the signing of the Treaty of Paris, which recognizes U.S. independence and possession of all land east of the Mississippi except the Spanish colony of Florida
1783 to 1785 - Because of his dissatisfaction with English textbooks of the day, Noah Webster writes A Grammatical Institute of the English Language , consisting of three volumes: a spelling book, a grammar book, and a reader. They become very widely used throughout the United States. In fact, the spelling volume, later renamed the American Spelling Book and often called the Blue-Backed Speller, has never been out of print!
1784 - The Ordinance of 1784 divides the Western territories (north of the Ohio River and east of the Mississippi) into ten separate territories that would eventually become states and have the same rights as the thirteen original states.
1785 - The University of Georgia becomes "America's first state-chartered university."
1785 - The Land Ordinance of 1785 specifies that the western territories are to be divided into townships made up of 640-acre sections, one of which was to be set aside "for the maintenance of public schools."
1787 - The Constitutional Convention assembles in Philadelphia. Later that year, the constitution is endorsed by the Confederation Congress (the body that governed from 1781 until the ratification of the U.S. Constitution) and sent to state legislatures for ratification. The document does not include the words education or school.
1787 - The Northwest Ordinance is enacted by the Confederation Congress. It provides a plan for western expansion and bans slavery in new states. Specifically recognizing the importance of education, Act 3 of the document begins, "Religion, morality, and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged." Perhaps of more of practical importance, it stipulates that a section of land in every township of each new state be reserved for the support of education.
1787 - The Young Ladies Academy opens in Philadelphia and becomes the first academy for girls in the original 13 colonies/states.
1788 - The U. S. Constitution is ratified by the required number of states.
1789 - On December 11, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is "chartered by the N.C. General Assembly." It is "the only public university to award degrees during the 18th Century."
1791 - The Bill of Rights is passed by the first Congress of the new United States. No mention is made of education in any of the amendments. However, the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution states that powers not delegated to the federal government "are reserved to the States, respectively, or to the people." Thus, education becomes a function of the state rather than the federal government.
1801 - James Pillans invents the modern blackboard.
1812-1815 - The War of 1812, sometimes called the "Second War of Independence," occurs for multiple reasons, including U.S. desires for territorial expansion and British harassment of U.S. merchant ships. The war begins with an unsuccessful invasion of Canada by U.S. forces. Though the Treaty of Ghent, signed on December 24, 1814, supposedly ends the war, the final battle actually takes place January 8, 1815 with U.S. forces defeating the British at New Orleans.
1817 - The Connecticut Asylum at Hartford for the Instruction of Deaf and Dumb Persons opens. It is the first permanent school for the deaf in the U.S. Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet and Laurent Clerc are the school's co-founders. In 1864, Thomas Gallaudet's son, Edward Miner Gallaudet, helps to start Gallaudet University, the first college specifically for deaf students.
1821 - Boston English High School, one of the first public high schools in the U.S., opens.
1823 - Catherine Beecher founds the Hartford Female Seminary, a private school for girls in Hartford, Connecticut. She goes on to found more schools and become a prolific writer. Her sister, Harriet Beecher Stowe, an influential abolitionist, is the author of Uncle Tom's Cabin.
1827 - The state of Massachusetts passes a law requiring towns of more than 500 families to have a public high school open to all students.
1829 - The New England Asylum for the Blind, now the Perkins School for the Blind, opens in Massachusetts, becoming the first school in the U.S. for children with visual disabilities.
1836 - The first of William Holmes McGuffey's readers is published. Their secular tone sets them apart from the Puritan texts of the day. The McGuffey Readers, as they came to be known, are among the most influential textbooks of the 19th Century.
1837 - Horace Mann becomes Secretary of the newly formed Massachusetts State Board of Education. A visionary educator and proponent of public (or "free") schools, Mann works tirelessly for increased funding of public schools and better training for teachers. As Editor of the Common School Journal, his belief in the importance of free, universal public education gains a national audience. He resigns his position as Secretary in 1848 to take the Congressional seat vacated by the death of John Quincy Adams and later becomes the first president of Antioch College.
1837 - Louisville, Kentucky appoints the first school superintendent.
1837 - Eighty students arrive at Mount Holyoke Female Seminary, the first college for women in the U.S. Its founder/president is Mary Lyon.
1837 - The African Institute (later called the Institute for Colored Youth) opens in Cheyney, Pennsylvania. Now called Cheyney University, it the oldest institution of higher learning for African Americans.
1839 - The first state funded school specifically for teacher education (then known as "normal" schools) opens in Lexington, Massachusetts.
1848 - Samuel Gridley Howe helps establish the Experimental School for Teaching and Training Idiotic Children, the first school of its kind in the U.S.
1849 - Elizabeth Blackwell graduates from Geneva Medical College, becoming the first woman to graduate from medical school. She later becomes a pioneer in the education of women in medicine.
1851 - The New York State Asylum for Idiots opens.
1852 - Massachusetts enacts the first mandatory attendance law. By 1885, 16 states have compulsory-attendance laws, but most of those laws are sporadically enforced at best. All states have them by 1918.
1853 - Pennsylvania begins funding the Pennsylvania Training School for Feeble-Minded Children, a private school for children with intellectual disabilities.
1854 -The Boston Public Library opens to the public. It is the first "free municipal library" in the U.S.
1854 - Ashmun Institute, now Lincoln University, is founded on October 12, and as Horace Mann Bond, the university's eighth president states in his book, Education for Freedom: A History of Lincoln University, it becomes the "first institution anywhere in the world to provide higher education in the arts and sciences for male youth of African descent." The university's many distinguished alumni include Langston Hughes and Thurgood Marshall.
1856 - The first kindergarten in the U.S. is started in Watertown, Wisconsin, founded by Margarethe Schurz. Four years later, Elizabeth Palmer Peabody opens the first "formal" kindergarten in Boston, MA.
1857 - The National Teachers Association (now the National Education Association) is founded by forty-three educators in Philadelphia.
1859 - Charles Darwin's The Origin of Species is published on November 24, introducing his theory that species evolve through the process of natural selection, and setting the stage for the controversy surrounding teaching the theory of evolution in public schools that persists to this day.
1860 - Abraham Lincoln, an anti-slavery Republican, is elected president.
1861 - The U.S. Civil War begins when South Carolina secedes from the union and along with 10 other states forms the Confederate States of American. The shooting begins when Fort Sumter is attacked on April 12. With the exception of the First Morrill act of 1862, educational progress is essentially put on hold until the war's end.
1862 - The First Morrill Act, also known as the "Land Grant Act" becomes law. It donates public lands to states, the sale of which will be used for the "endowment, support, and maintenance of at least one college where the leading object shall be, without excluding other scientific and classical studies and including military tactics, to teach such branches of learning as are related to agriculture and the mechanic arts, in order to promote the liberal and practical education of the industrial classes in the several pursuits and professions in life." Many prominent state universities can trace their roots to this forward-thinking legislation.1867 & 1868 - The four Reconstruction Acts are passed over President Andrew Johnson's veto. They divide the south into military districts and require elections to be held with freed male slaves being allowed to vote.
1863 - President Lincoln signs the "Emancipation Proclamation" on January 1.
1865 - The 13th Amendment is passed, abolishing slavery.
1865 - The Civil War ends with Lee's surrender at Appomattox Courthouse. Much of the south, including its educational institutions, is left in disarray. Many schools are closed. Even before the war, public education in the south was far behind that in the north. The physical devastation left by the war as well as the social upheaval and poverty that follow exacerbate this situation.
1865 - Abraham Lincoln is assassinated, and Andrew Johnson, a southern Democrat and advocate of state's rights, becomes President.
1866 - The 14th Amendment is passed by Congress as one of the reconstruction amendments. If ratified by three-fourths of the states, it would give all persons born or naturalized in the United States citizenship and equal protection under the law.
1867 - The Department of Education is created in order to help states establish effective school systems.
1867 - After hearing of the desperate situation facing schools in the south, George Peabody funds the two-million-dollar Peabody Education Fund to aid public education in southern states.
1867 - Howard University is established in Washington D.C. to provide education for African American youth "in the liberal arts and sciences.” Early financial support is provided by the Freedmen's Bureau.
1867 - Christopher Sholes invents the "modern" typewriter. Known as the Sholes Glidden, it is first manufactured by E. Remington & Sons in 1873.
1868 -In spite of opposition by southern states, the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is ratified and becomes law. It guarantees privileges of citizenship including due process and equal protection under the law including the right to vote for freed male slaves. It becomes the basis for the rulings in Brown v. Board of Education and Pyler v. Doe as well as many other important court cases.
1869 - Congress passes the 15th Amendment. It prohibits states from denying male citizens over 21 (including freed slaves) the right to vote.
1869 - Boston creates the first public day school for the deaf.
1873 - The Panic of 1873 causes bank foreclosures, business failures, and job loss. The economic depression that follows results in reduced revenues for education. Southern schools are hit particularly hard, making a bad situation even worse.
1873-The Society to Encourage Studies at Home is founded in Boston by Anna Eliot Ticknor, daughter of Harvard professor George Ticknor. It's purpose is to allow women the opportunity for study and enlightenment and becomes the first correspondence school in the United States.
1874 - The Michigan State Supreme Court rules that Kalamazoo may levy taxes to support a public high school, setting an important precedent for similar rulings in other states.
1874 - Phebe Sudlow becomes the first female superintendent of public schools in the United States when she is named Davenport. Iowa Superintendent of Schools
1875 - The Civil Rights Act is passed, banning segregation in all public accommodations. The Supreme Court rules it unconstitutional in 1883.
1876 - Edouard Seguin becomes the first President of the Association of Medical Officers of American Institutions for Idiotic and Feebleminded Persons, which evolves into the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.
1876 - Meharry Medical College is founded in Nashville, Tennessee. It is the first medical school in the south for African Americans.
1876 - The Dewey Decimal System, developed by Melvil Dewey in 1873, is published and patented. The DDC is still the worlds most widely-used library classification system.
1877 - Reconstruction formally ends as President Rutherford B. Hayes removes the last federal troops from the south. The foundation for a system of legal segregation and discrimination is quickly established. Many African Americans flee the south.
1879 - The first Indian boarding school opens in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. It becomes the model for a total of 26 similar schools, all with the goal of assimilating Indian children into the mainstream culture. The schools leave a controversial legacy. Though some see them as a noble, albeit largely unsuccessful experiment, many view their legacy to be one of alienation and "cultural dislocation." The Carlisle Indian Industrial School closes in 1918. Famous athlete Jim Thorpe is among the school's thousands of alumni.
1881 - Booker T. Washington becomes the first principal of the newly-opened normal school in Tuskegee, Alabama, now Tuskegee University.
1884 -The first practical fountain pen is patented by Lewis Waterman.
1887 - The Hatch Act of 1887 establishes a network of agricultural experiment stations connected to land grant universities established under the First Morrill Act.
1889 - Jane Addams and her college friend Ellen Gates Starr found Hull House in a Chicago, Illinois neighborhood of recent European immigrants. It is the first settlement house in the U.S. Included among its many services are a kindergarten and a night school for adults. Hull House continues to this day to offer educational services to children and families.
1890 - The Second Morrill Act is enacted. It provides for the "more complete endowment and support of the colleges" through the sale of public lands, Part of this funding leads to the creation of 16 historically black land-grant colleges.
1891 - Stanford University is founded in 1891 by former California Governor and railroad tycoon Leland Stanford in memory of his son, Leland Jr.
1892 - Formed by the National Education Association to establish a standard secondary school curriculum, the Committee of Ten, recommends a college-oriented high school curriculum.
1896 - Homer Plessy, a 30-year-old African American, challenges the state of Louisiana's "Separate Car Act," arguing that requiring Blacks to ride in separate railroad cars violates the 13th and 14th Amendments. The U.S. Supreme Court upholds the Louisiana law stating in the majority opinion that the intent of the 14th Amendment "had not been intended to abolish distinctions based on color." Thus, the Supreme Court ruling in the case of Plessy v. Ferguson makes "separate but equal" policies legal. It becomes a legal precedent used to justify many other segregation laws, including "separate but equal" education.
1897 - The National Congress of Mothers is founded by Alice McLellan Birney and Phoebe Apperson Hearst. It becomes the National Parent Teacher Association (PTA).
1898 - The Spanish American War makes Theodore Roosevelt a hero, and the United States becomes an international power.
1900 - The Association of American Universities is founded to promote higher standards and put U.S. universities on an equal footing with their European counterparts.
1901 - Joliet Junior College, in Joliet, Illinois, opens. It is the first public community college in the U.S.
1902: A youth program begun in Ohio "is considered the birth of 4-H." With the passage of the Smith-Lever Act in 1914, 4-H becomes a national program for positive youth development.
1903 - Ivan Pavlov reads his paper, The Experimental Psychology and Psychopathology of Animals, at the 14th International Medical Congress in Madrid, explaining his concept of the conditioned reflex, an important component of classical conditioning.
1904 - Mary McLeod Bethune, an African American educator, founds the Daytona Educational and Industrial Training School for Negro Girls in Daytona Beach, Florida. It merges with the Cookman Institute in 1923 and becomes a coeducational high school, which eventually evolves into Bethune-Cookman College, now Bethune-Cookman University.
1905 - Alfred Binet's article, "New Methods for the Diagnosis of the Intellectual Level of Subnormals," is published in France. It describes his work with Theodore Simon in the development of a measurement instrument that would identify students with mental retardation. The Binet-Simon Scale, as it is called, is an effective means of measuring intelligence.
1905- The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching is founded. It is charted by an act of Congress in 1906, the same year the Foundation encouraged the adoption of a standard system for equating "seat time" (the amount of time spent in a class) to high school credits. Still in use today, this system came to be called the "Carnegie Unit." Other important achievements of the Foundation during the first half of the 20th Century include the "landmark 'Flexner Report' on medical education, the development of the Graduate Record Examination, the founding of the Educational Testing Service, and the creation of the Teachers Insurance Annuity Association of America (TIAA-CREF)." See the Carnegie Foundation's home page for additional information.
1909 - Educational reformer Ella Flagg Young becomes superintendent of the Chicago Public Schools. She is the first female superintendent of a large city school system. One year later she is elected president of the National Education Association.
1909 - Ellen Swallow Richards, chemist, prominent water scientist, and the first woman to attend MIT, is instrumental in founding the American Home Economics Association, now the American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences.
1909 - In order to improve high school graduation rates, the Columbus Ohio School Board authorizes the creation of junior high schools. Indianola Junior High School opens that fall and becomes the first junior high school in the U.S.
1911 - The first Montessori school in the U.S. opens in Tarrytown, New York. Two years later (1913), Maria Montessori visits the U.S., and Alexander Graham Bell and his wife Mabel found the Montessori Educational Association at their Washington, DC, home
1913 - Edward Lee Thorndike's book, Educational Psychology: The Psychology of Learning, is published. It describes his theory that human learning involves habit formation, or connections between stimuli (or situations as Thorndike preferred to call them) and responses (Connectionism). He believes that such connections are strengthened by repetition ("Law of Exercise") and achieving satisfying consequences ("Law of Effect"). These ideas, which contradict traditional faculty psychology and mental discipline, come to dominate American educational psychology for much of the Twentieth Century and greatly influence American educational practice.
1914 - The Smith-Lever Act establishes a system of cooperative extension services connected to land grant universities, provides federal funds for extension activities, and nationalizes 4-H.
1916 - Louis M. Terman and his team of Stanford University graduate students complete an American version of the Binet-Simon Scale. The Stanford Revision of the Binet-Simon Scale becomes a widely-used individual intelligence test, and along with it, the concept of the intelligence quotient (or IQ) is born. The Fifth Edition of the Stanford-Binet Scales is among the most popular individual intelligence tests today.
1916 - John Dewey's Democracy and Education. An Introduction to the Philosophy of Education is published. Dewey's views help advance the ideas of the "progressive education movement." An outgrowth of the progressive political movement, progressive education seeks to make schools more effective agents of democracy. His daughter, Evelyn Dewey, coauthors Schools of To-morrow with her father, and goes on to write several books on her own.
1916 - The Bureau of Educational Experiments is founded in New York City by Lucy Sprague Mitchell with the purpose of studying child development and children's learning. It opens a laboratory nursery school in 1918 and in 1950 becomes the Bank Street College of Education. Its School for Children is now "an independent demonstration school for Bank Street College." This same year (1916), Mrs. Frank R. Lillie helps establish what would become the University of Chicago Nursery School.
1917 - The Smith-Hughes Act passes, providing federal funding for agricultural and vocational education. It is repealed in 1997.
1917 - As the U.S. enters W.W.I the army has no means of screening the intellectual ability of its recruits. Robert Yerkes, then President of the American Psychological Association and an army officer, becomes Chairman of the Committee on Psychological Examination of Recruits. The committee, which includes Louis Terman, has the task of developing a group intelligence test. He and his team of psychologists design the Army Alpha and Beta tests. Though these tests have little impact on the war, they lay the groundwork for future standardized tests.
1918 - The Seven Cardinal Principles of Secondary Education are submitted by the Commission of the Reorganization of Secondary Education.
1918 - World War I ends on 11 November.
1919 - The Treaty of Versailles is signed on 28 June. It officially ends the state of war between Germany and the Allied Powers. However, the terms of the treaty are tragically flawed, and instead of bringing lasting peace, it plants the seeds for World War II, which begins twenty years later.
1919 - The Progressive Education Association is founded with the goal of reforming American education.
1919 - All states have laws providing funds for transporting children to school.
1920 - John B. Watson and his assistant Rosalie Rayner conduct their experiments using classical conditioning with children. Often referred to as the Little Albert study, Watson and Rayner's work showed that children could be conditioned to fear stimuli of which they had previously been unafraid. This study could not be conducted today because of ethical safeguards currently in place.
1920 - The 19th Amendment is ratified, giving women the right to vote.
1921 - Louis Terman launches a longitudinal study of "intellectually superior" children at Stanford University. The study continues for more than 75 years!
1922 - The International Council for Exceptional Children is founded at Columbia University Teachers College.
1922 - Abigail Adams Eliot, with help from Mrs. Henry Greenleaf Pearson, establishes the Ruggles Street Nursery School in Roxbury, MA, one of the first educational nursery schools in the U.S. It becomes the Eliot-Pearson Children's School and is now affiliated with the Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Development at Tufts University.
1924 - Max Wertheimer describes the principles of Gestalt Theory to the Kant Society in Berlin. Gestalt Theory, with its emphasis on learning through insight and grasping the whole concept, becomes important later in the 20th Century in the development of cognitive views of learning and teaching.
1925 - Tennessee vs. John Scopes ("the Monkey Trial") captures national attention as John Scopes, a high school biology teacher, is charged with the heinous crime of teaching evolution, which is in violation of the Butler Act, The trial ends in Scopes' conviction. The evolution versus creationism controversy persists to this day.
1926 - The Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) is first administered. It is based on the Army Alpha test.
1929 - Jean Piaget's The Child's Conception of the World is published. His theory of cognitive development becomes an important influence in American developmental psychology and education.
1929 - The Great Depression begins with the stock market crash in October. The U.S. economy is devastated. Public education funding suffers greatly, resulting in school closings, teacher layoffs, and lower salaries.
1931 - Alvarez vs. the Board of Trustees of the Lemon Grove (California) School District becomes the first successful school desegregation court case in the United States, as the local court forbids the school district from placing Mexican-American children in a separate "Americanization" school.
1932 - Franklin Delano Roosevelt is elected president and begins bold efforts to initiate his New Deal and spur economic recovery. His wife, Eleanor, becomes a champion of human rights and forever transforms the role of American First Lady.
1935 - Congress authorizes the Works Progress Administration. Its purpose is to put the unemployed to work on public projects, including the construction of hundreds of school buildings.
1938 - After earlier failed attempts to regulate child labor, the Fair Labor Standards Act is signed in to law by president Franklin D. Roosevelt. Among its many provisions (which include setting a minimum wage of 25 cents per hour!), the act sets a minimum age for working in non-agricultural jobs and limits the number of hours and types of employment for older children.
1938 - Laszlo Biro and his brother Georg patent the ballpoint pen.
1939 - Frank W. Cyr, a professor at Columbia University's Teachers College, organizes a national conference on student transportation. It results in the adoption of standards for the nation's school buses, including the shade of yellow.
1939 - The Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (first called the Wechsler- Bellevue Intelligence Scale) is developed by David Wechsler. It introduces the concept of the "deviation IQ," which calculates IQ scores based on how far subjects' scores differ (or deviate) from the average (mean) score of others who are the same age, rather than calculating them with the ratio (MA/CA multiplied by 100) system. Wechsler intelligence tests, particularly the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children, are still widely used in U.S. schools to help identify students needing special education.
1941 - The U.S. enters World War II after the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor on December 7. During the next four years, much of the country's resources go to the war effort. Education is put on the back burner as many young men quit school to enlist; schools are faced with personnel problems as teachers and other employees enlist, are drafted, or leave to work in defense plants; school construction is put on hold.
1944 - The G.I. Bil of Rights officially known as the Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944, is signed by FDR on June 22. Some 7.8 million World War II veterans take advantage of the GI Bill during the seven years benefits are offered. More than two-million attend colleges or universities, nearly doubling the college population. About 238,000 become teachers. Because the law provides the same opportunity to every veteran, regardless of background, the long-standing tradition that a college education was only for the wealthy is broken.
1945 - World War II ends on August 15 (VJ Day) with victory over Japan.
1946 - At one minute after midnight on January 1st, Kathleen Casey-Kirschling is born, the first of nearly 78-million baby boomers, beginning a generation that results in unprecedented school population growth and massive social change. She becomes a teacher!
1946 - In the landmark court case of Mendez vs. Westminster and the California Board of Education, the U. S. District Court in Los Angeles rules that educating children of Mexican descent in separate facilities is unconstitutional, thus prohibiting segregation in California schools and setting an important precedent for Brown vs. Board of Education.
1946 - The computer age begins as the Electronic Numerical Integrator And Computer (ENIAC), the first vacuum-tube computer, is built for the U.S. military by Presper Eckert and John Mauchly.
1946 - With thousands of veterans returning to college, The President's Commission on Higher Education is given the task of reexamining the role of colleges and universities in post-war America. The first volume of its report, often referred to as the Truman Commission Report, is issued in 1947 and recommends sweeping changes in higher education, including doubling college enrollments by 1960 and extending free public education through the establishment of a network of community colleges. This latter recommendation comes to fruition in the 1960s, during which community college enrollment more than triples.
1946 - Recognizing "the need for a permanent legislative basis for a school lunch program," the 79th Congress approves the National School Lunch Act.
1947 - In the case of Everson v. Board of Education, the U.S. Supreme Court rules by a 5-4 vote that a New Jersey law which allowed reimbursements of transportation costs to parents of children who rode public transportation to school, even if their children attended Catholic schools, did NOT violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
1948 - In the case of McCollum v. Board of Education, the Supreme Court rules that schools cannot allow "released time" during the school day which allows students to participate in religious education in their public school classrooms.
1950 - Public Law 81-740 grants a federal charter to the FFA and recognizes it as an integral part of the program of vocational agriculture. The law is revised in 1998 and becomes Public Law 105-225.
1952 - Public Law 550, the Veterans Readjustment Assistance Act of 1952, modifies the G.I. Bill for veterans of the Korean War.
1953 - Burrhus Frederic (B.F.) Skinner's Science and Human Behavior is published. His form of behaviorism (operant conditioning), which emphasizes changes in behavior due to reinforcement, becomes widely accepted and influences many aspects of American education
1954 - On May 17th, the U.S. Supreme Court announces its decision in the case of Brown v. Board. of Education of Topeka, ruling that "separate educational facilities are inherently unequal," thus overturning its previous ruling in the 1896 case of Plessy v. Ferguson. Brown v. Board of Education is actually a combination of five cases from different parts of the country. It is a historic first step in the long and still unfinished journey toward equality in U.S. education.
1955 - Rosa Parks, a Montgomery, Alabama seamstress, refuses to give up her seat on the bus to a Caucasian passenger and is subsequently arrested and fined. The Montgomery bus boycott follows, giving impetus to the Civil Rights Movement. A year later, in the case of Browder v. Gale, the U.S. Supreme Court rules that segregated seating on buses is unconstitutional.
1956 – The Taxonomy of Educational Objectives: The Cassification of Educational Goals; Handbook I: Cognitive Domain is published. Often referred to simply as “Bloom’s Taxonomy” because of its primary author, Benjamin S. Bloom, the document actually has four coauthors (M.D. Engelhart, E.J. Furst, W.H. Hill, and David Krathwohl). Still widely used today, Bloom’s Taxonomy divides the cognitive domain into six levels: knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis. Handbook II: Affective Domain, edited by Krathwohl, Bloom, and Masia, is published in 1964. Taxonomies for the psychomotor domain have been published by other writers.
1957 - The Civil Rights Act of 1957 is voted into law in spite of Strom Thurmond's filibuster. Essentially a voting-rights bill, it is the first civil rights legislation since reconstruction and is a precursor to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
1957 - Federal troops enforce integration in Little Rock, Arkansas as the Little Rock 9 enroll at Central High School.
1957 - The Soviet Union launches Sputnik, the first satellite to orbit the Earth. Occurring in the midst of the Cold War, it represents both a potential threat to American national security as well as a blow to national pride.
1958 - At least partially because of Sputnik, science and science education become important concerns in the U.S., resulting in the passage of the National Defense Education Act (NDEA) which authorizes increased funding for scientific research as well as science, mathematics, and foreign language education.
1959 - The ACT Test is first administered.
1960 -First grader Ruby Bridges is the first African American to attend William Frantz Elementary School in New Orleans. She becomes a class of one as parents remove all Caucasian students from the school.
1962 - First published in 1934, Lev Vygotsky's book, Thought and Language is introduced to the English-speaking world. Though he lives to only 38, Vygotsky's ideas regarding the social nature of learning provide important foundational principles for contemporary social constructivist theories. He is perhaps best known for his concept of "Zone of Proximal Development."
1962 - In the case of Engel v. Vitale, the U. S. Supreme Court rules that the state of New York's Regents prayer violates the First Amendment. The ruling specifies that "state officials may not compose an official state prayer and require that it be recited in the public schools of the State at the beginning of each school day. . . "
1963 - In the cases of School District of Abington Township, Pennsylvania v. Schempp and Murray v. Curlett, the U. S. Supreme Court reaffirms Engel v. Vitale by ruling that "no state law or school board may require that passages from the Bible be read or that the Lord's Prayer be recited in the public schools . . . even if individual students may be excused from attending or participating . . ."
1963 - Samuel A. Kirk uses the term "learning disability" at a Chicago conference on children with perceptual disorders. The term sticks, and in 1964, the Association for Children with Learning Disabilities, now the Learning Disabilities Association of America, is formed. Today, nearly one-half of all students in the U.S. who receive special education have been identified as having learning disabilities.
1963 - President John F. Kennedy is assassinated. Schools close as the nation mourns its loss. Lyndon Johnson becomes president.
1963 - In response to the large number of Cuban immigrant children arriving in Miami after the Cuban Revolution, Coral Way Elementary School starts the first bilingual and bicultural public school in the United States.
1964 - The Civil Rights Act becomes law. It prohibits discrimination based on race, color, sex, religion or national origin.
1965 - The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) is passed on April 9. Part of Lyndon Johnson's "War on Poverty," it provides federal funds to help low-income students, which results in the initiation of educational programs such as Title I and bilingual education.
1965 - President Johnson signs the Manpower Training Act into law on April 16.
1965 - The Higher Education Act is signed at Southwest Texas State College on November 8. It increases federal aid to higher education and provides for scholarships, student loans, and establishes a National Teachers Corps.
1965 - Project Head Start, a preschool education program for children from low-income families, begins as an eight-week summer program. Part of the "War on Poverty," the program continues to this day as the longest-running anti-poverty program in the U.S.
1965 - Lyndon Johnson signs the Immigration Act of 1965, also known as the Hart-Cellar Act, on October.3rd. It abolishes the National Origins Formula and results in unprecedented numbers of Asians and Latin Americans immigrating to the United States, making America's classrooms much more diverse.
1966 - The Equality of Educational Opportunity Study, often called the Coleman Report because of its primary author James S. Coleman, is conducted in response to provisions of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Its conclusion that African American children benefit from attending integrated schools sets the stage for school "busing" to achieve desegregation.
1966 - Jerome Bruner's Toward a Theory of Instruction is published. His views regarding learning help to popularize the cognitive learning theory as an alternative to behaviorism.
1966 - Public Law 358, the Veterans Readjustment Benefits Act of 1966, provides not only educational benefits, but also home and farm loans as well as employment counseling and placement services for Vietnam veterans. More than 385,000 troops, serve in Vietnam during 1966. From 1965-1975, more than nine million American military personnel are on active military duty, about 3.4 million of whom serve in Southeast Asia.
1968 - Dr. Martin Luther King, Nobel Prize winner and leader of the American Civil Rights Movement, is assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee on April 4th. The Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday, observed on the third Monday of January, celebrates his "life and legacy."
1968 - The Bilingual Education Act, also know as Title VII, becomes law. After many years of controversy, the law is repealed in 2002 and replaced by the No Child Left Behind Act.
1968 - The "Monkey Trial" revisited! In the case of Epperson et al. v. Arkansas, the U.S. supreme Court finds the state of Arkansas' law prohibiting the teaching of evolution in a public school or university unconstitutional.
1968 - Shirley Anita St. Hill Chisholm, an African American educator, becomes the first African American woman to serve in the U.S. Congress.
1968 - McCarver Elementary School in Tacoma, Washington becomes the nation's first magnet school.
1968 - The Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) is introduced for selection and classification of recruits. By 1976, the ASVAB is used by all services. A practice test is available online.
1969 - Herbert R. Kohl's book, The Open Classroom, helps to promote open education, an approach emphasizing student-centered classrooms and active, holistic learning. The conservative back-to-the-basics movement of the 1970s begins at least partially as a backlash against open education. .
1969 - On April 30th, the number of U.S. military personnel in Vietnam stands at 543,482, the most at any time during the war. College enrollments swell as many young men seek student deferments from the draft; anti-war protests become commonplace on college campuses, and grade inflation begins as professors realize that low grades may change male students' draft status.1971 - In the case of Pennsylvania Association for Retarded Children (PARC) v. Pennsylvania, the federal court rules that students with mental retardation are entitled to a free public education.
1969 - Based on the ideas of Charles Bowser, then Deputy Mayor of Philadelphia, Edison High School in Philadelphia becomes the first "Career Academy." By 1991, there are career academy programs in 16 Philadelphia high schools.
1969 - ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network), the first "packet-switching" network and precursor of the internet, is created by the U.S. Defense Department. Its first message is sent October 29, at about 10:30 P.M. For alternate perspectives on the origins of the internet, see So, who really invented the internet?
1970 - Four students are killed by Ohio National Guard troops on May 4th during an anti-war protest at Kent State University in Ohio.
1970 - In his controversial book, Deschooling Society, Ivan Illich sharply criticizes traditional schools and calls for the end of compulsory school attendance.
1970 - Jean Piaget's book, The Science of Education, is published. His Learning Cycle model helps to popularize discovery-based teaching approaches, particularly in the sciences.
1970 - The case of Diana v. California State Board results in new laws requiring that children referred for possible special education placement be tested in their primary language.
1971 - Michael Hart, founder of Project Guttenberg, invents the e-Book.
1972 - Texas Instruments introduces the first in its line of electronic hand-held calculators, the TI-2500 Data Math. TI becomes an industry leader known around the world.
1972 - The Indian Education Act becomes law and establishes "a comprehensive approach to meeting the unique needs of American Indian and Alaska Native students"
1972 - The case of Mills v. the Board of Education of Washington, D.C. extends the PARC v. Pennsylvania ruling to other students with disabilities and requires the provision of "adequate alternative educational services suited to the child's needs, which may include special education . . ." Other similar cases follow.
1972 - Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 becomes law. Though many people associate this law only with girl's and women's participation in sports, Title IX prohibits discrimination based on sex in all aspects of education.
1972 - The Marland Report to Congress on gifted and talented education is issued. It recommends a broader definition of giftedness that is still widely accepted today.
1973 - U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War ends on January 27. More than 58,000 U.S. service personnel are killed in action during the war. The fighting continues until April 30, 1975 when South Vietnam surrenders to the communist North Vietnamese forces.
1973 - Marian Wright Edelman founds the Children's Defense Fund, a non-profit child advocacy organization.
1973 - The Rehabilitation Act becomes law. Section 504 of this act guarantees civil rights for people with disabilities in the context of federally funded institutions and requires accommodations in schools including participation in programs and activities as well as access to buildings. Today, "504 Plans" are used to provide accommodations for students with disabilities who do not qualify for special education or an IEP.
1974 - In the Case of Lau v. Nichols, the U.S. Supreme Court rules that the failure of the San Francisco School District to provide English language instruction to Chinese-American students with limited English proficiency (LEP) is a violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Though the case does not require a specific approach to teaching LEP students, it does require school districts to provide equal opportunities for all students, including those who do not speak English.
1974 - The Equal Educational Opportunities Act is passed. It prohibits discrimination and requires schools to take action to overcome barriers which prevent equal protection. The legislation has been particularly important in protecting the rights of students with limited English proficiency..
1974 - Federal Judge Arthur Garrity orders busing of African American students to predominantly white schools in order to achieve racial integration of public schools in Boston, MA. White parents protest, particularly in South Boston.
1974 - In the case of Milliken v. Bradley, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that outside suburbs were not responsible for segregation within the Detroit city schools, and the District Court could not "redraw the lines . . .to achieve racial balance." Therefore busing of students from Detroit to suburban schools was not required by law.
1975 - The Education of All Handicapped Children Act (PL 94-142) becomes federal law. It requires that a free, appropriate public education, suited to the student's individual needs, and offered in the least restrictive setting be provided for all "handicapped" children. States are given until 1978 (later extended to 1981) to fully implement the law.
1975 - The National Association of Bilingual Education is founded.
1975 - Newsweek's December 8 cover story, "Why Johnny Can't Write," heats up the debate about national literacy and gives impetus to the back-to-the-basics movement.
1977 - Apple Computer, now Apple Inc., introduces the Apple II, one of the first successful personal computers. It and its offspring, the Apple IIe, become popular in schools as students begin to learn with computer games such as Oregon Trail and Odell Lake.
1978 - The Tribally Controlled Community College Act is signed into law on October 17 by President Jimmy Carter. It provides Federal assistance to tribally controlled community colleges.
1980 - The Refugee Act of 1980 is signed into law by President Jimmy Carter on March 18th. Building on the Immigration Act of 1965, it reforms immigration law to admit refugees for humanitarian reasons and results in the resettlement of more than three-million refugees in the United States including many children who bring special needs and issues to their classrooms. 1980 - President Jimmy Carter signs the Refugee Education Assistance Act into law as the "Mariel Boatlift" brings thousands of Cuban and a small number of Haitian refugees to Florida.
1980 - Ronald Reagan is elected president, ushering in a new conservative era, not only in foreign and economic policy, but in education as well. However, he never carries out his pledge to reduce the federal role in education by eliminating the Department of Education, which had become a Cabinet level agency that same year under the Carter administration..
1981 - John Holt's book, Teach Your Own: A Hopeful Path for Education, adds momentum to the homeschooling movement.
1981 - IBM introduces its version of the personal computer (PC) with its Model 5150. It's operating system is MS-DOS.
1982 - In the case of Edwards v. Aguillard, the U.S. Supreme Court invalidates Louisiana's "Creationism Act," which requires the teaching of creationism whenever evolution is taught, because it violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution.
1982 - Madeline C. Hunter's book, Mastery Teaching, is published. Her teaching model becomes widely used as teachers throughout the country attend her workshops and become "Hunterized."
1982 - In the case of Plyler v. Doe, the U.S. Supreme Court rules in a 5-4 decision that Texas law denying access to public education for undocumented school-age children violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. The ruling also found that school districts cannot charge tuition fees for the education of these children.
1982 - In the case of Board of Education v. Pico, the U.S. Supreme court rules that books cannot be removed from a school library because school administrators deemed their content to be offensive.
1983 - The report of the National Commission on Excellence in Education, A Nation at Risk, calls for sweeping reforms in public education and teacher training. Among their recommendations is a forward-looking call for expanding high school requirements to include the study of computer science.
1984 - Public Law 105-332, the Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Technical Education Act, is passed with the goal of increasing the quality of vocational-technical education in the U.S. It is reauthorized in 1998 and again in 2006 as the Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Technical Education Act (PL 109-270).
1984 -The Emergency Immigrant Education Act is enacted to provide services and offset the costs for school districts that have unexpectedly large numbers of immigrant students.
1985 - In the case of Wallace v, Jaffree, the U.S. Supreme Court finds that Alabama statutes authorizing silent prayer and teacher-led voluntary prayer in public schools violate the First Amendment.
1985 - Microsoft Windows 1.0, the first independent version of Windows, is released, setting the stage for subsequent versions that make MS-DOS obsolete.
1986 - Christa McAuliffe is chosen by NASA from among more than 11,000 applicants to be the first teacher-astronaut, but her mission ends tragically as the Space Shuttle Challenger explodes 73 seconds after its launch, killing McAuliffe and the other six members of the crew.
1986 - Reports by the Holmes Group and Carnegie Forum on Education recommend changes in teacher education and the teaching profession.
1987 - In response to the report of the National Commission on Excellence in Education, A Nation at Risk, the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards is formed and National Board Certification, based in these standards, is established as a means of "recognizing accomplished teaching."
1987 - In the case of Edwards v. Aguillard, et al. the U.S. Supreme Court strikes down a Louisiana requiring that creation science be taught along with evolution. Will this controversy ever be resolved?
1989 - The University of Phoenix establishes their "online campus," the first to offer online bachelor's and master's degrees. It becomes the "largest private university in North America."
1990 - Tim Berners-Lee, a British engineer and computer scientist called by many the inventor of the internet, writes the first web client-server protocol (Hypertext Translation Protocol or http), which allows two computers to communicate. On August 6, 1991, he puts the first web site on line from a computer at the CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research) in order to facilitate information sharing among scientists. So . . . does this mean that Al Gore didn't invent the internet after all?
1990 - Public Law 101-476, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), renames and amends Public Law 94-142. In addition to changing terminology from handicap to disability, it mandates transition services and adds autism and traumatic brain injury to the eligibility list.
1990 - The Milwaukee Parental Choice program is initiated. It allows "students, under specific circumstances, to attend at no charge, private sectarian and nonsectarian schools located in the city of Milwaukee."
1990 - Teach for America is formed, reestablishing the idea of a National Teachers Corps.
1990- The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1990, the first comprehensive reform since 1965, is enacted on 29 November and increases annual immigration to 700,000 adding to the diversity of our nation and its schools. Specific aspects of the law provide for family-sponsored visas; employment-based visas for priority workers, skilled workers, and "advanced professionals"; and 55,000 diversity visas allocated to natives of a country that has sent fewer than 50,000 immigrants to the United States over the previous five years."
1991 - Minnesota passes the first "charter school" law.
1991 - The smart board (interactive white board) is introduced by SMART Technologies.
1992 - City Academy High School, the nation's first charter school, opens in St. Paul, Minnesota.
1993 - Jacqueline and Martin Brooks' In Search of Understanding: The Case for Constructivist Classrooms is published. It is one many books and articles describing constructivism, a view that learning best occurs through active construction of knowledge rather than its passive reception. Constructivist learning theory, with roots such as the work of Dewey, Bruner, Piaget, and Vygotsky, becomes extremely popular in the 1990s.
1993 - The Massachusetts Education Reform Act requires a common curriculum and statewide tests (Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System). As has often been the case, other states follow Massachusetts' lead and implement similar, high-stakes testing programs.
1994 – The controversial Sandia Report is finally published. Commissioned in 1989 as a scientific study of public education, its findings are contrary to expectations in that it finds improvement in mostl aspects of U.S. public education. Results of the study are withheld by the Bush administration and others in government who advocate for vouchers and school choice.
1994 - The Improving America's Schools Act (IASA) is signed into law by President Bill Clinton on January 25th. It. reauthorizes the ESEA of 1965 and includes reforms for Title I; increased funding for bilingual and immigrant education; and provisions for public charter schools, drop-out prevention, and educational technology.
1994 - As a backlash to illegal immigration, California voters pass Proposition 187, denying benefits, including public education, to undocumented aliens in California. It is challenged by the ACLU and other groups and eventually overturned.
1994 - Jim Clark and Mark Andreesan found Mosaic Communications. The corporation is later renamed Netscape Communications. On December 15th, they release the first commercial web browser, Mozilla 1.0. It is available without cost to individuals and non-profit organizations. By the summer of 1995, more than 80% of internet users are browsing with Netscape!
1994 - CompuHigh Whitmorte is founded. It claims to be the first online high school.
1994-1995 - Whiteboards find their way into U.S. classrooms in increasing numbers and begin to replace the blackboard.
1995 - Georgia becomes the first state to offer universal preschool to all four year olds whose parents choose to enroll them. More than half of the state's four year olds are now enrolled.
1996 - James Banks' book, Multicultural Education: Transformative Knowledge and Action, makes an important contribution to the growing body of scholarship regarding multiculturalism in education.
1996 - The Oakland, California School District sparks controversy as it proposes that Ebonics be recognized as the native language of African American children.
1996 - President Bill Clinton signs the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 into law on September 30th.. It prohibits states from offering higher education benefit based on residency within a state (in-state tuition) to undocumented immigrants unless the benefit is available to any U.S. citizen or national. This law conflicts, however, with practices and laws in several U.S. states.
1996 - Educators come together to form the National Career Academy Coalition.
1997 - New York follows Georgia's lead and passes legislation that will phase in voluntary pre-kindergarten classes over a four-year period. However, preschool funding is a casualty of September 11, 2001 as New York struggles to recover. As of 2008, about 39% of the state's four year olds, mostly from low-income families, are enrolled.
1998 - California voters pass Proposition 227, requiring that all public school instruction be in English. This time the law withstands legal challenges.
1998 - The Higher Education Act is amended and reauthorized requiring institutions and states to produce "report cards" about teacher education.
1998 - Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin set up a workplace for their newly incorporated search engine in a Menlo Park, California garage.
1999 - On April 20th, two Columbine High School students go on a killing spree that leaves 15 dead and 23 wounded at the Littleton, Colorado school, making it the nations' deadliest school shooting incident. Though schools tighten safety procedures as a result of the Columbine massacre, school shootings continue to occur at an alarming rate.
2000 - Diane Ravitch's book, Left Back: A Century of Failed School Reforms, criticizes progressive educational policies and argues for a more traditional, academically-oriented education. Her views, which are reminiscent of the "back to the basics" movement of the late 1970s and 1980s, are representative of the current conservative trend in education and the nation at large.
2000 - In yet another case regarding school prayer (Santa Fe School District v. Doe), the U.S. Supreme Court rules that the district's policy of allowing student-led prayer prior to football games violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
2001 - Nineteen al-Qaeda terrorists hijack four commercial jet airliners on the morning of September 11. They crash two into the twin towers of the World Trade Center and another into the Pentagon. The fourth plane crashes in a rural area of Pennsylvania as passengers try to retake it from the hijackers. A total of 2976 victims as well as the 19 terrorists are killed. The attacks have a devastating effect on both U.S. and world stock markets, result in the passage of the Patriot Act and formation of the Department of Homeland Security, provide the impetus for two wars, and take a lasting toll on Americans' sense of safety and well-being.
2001 - The controversial No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) is approved by Congress and signed into law by President George W. Bush on January 8, 2002. The law, which reauthorizes the ESEA of 1965 and replaces the Bilingual Education Act of 1968, mandates high-stakes student testing, holds schools accountable for student achievement levels, and provides penalties for schools that do not make adequate yearly progress toward meeting the goals of NCLB.
2002 - In the case of Zelman v. Simmons-Harris the U.S. Supreme court rules that certain school voucher programs are constitutional and do not violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
2002 - The North American Reggio Emilia Alliance (NAREA) is formally launched as an organization. Its goals include promoting the rights of young children and providing information about the Reggio Emilia approach to early childhood education.
2003 - The Higher Education Act is again amended and reauthorized, expanding access to higher education for low and middle income students, providing additional funds for graduate studies, and increasing accountability.
2003 - The International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL), a non-profit organization dedicated to enhancing K-12 online education, is "launched as a formal corporate entity."
2004 - H.R. 1350, The Individuals with Disabilities Improvement Act (IDEA 2004), reauthorizes and modifies IDEA. Changes, which take effect on July 1, 2005, include modifications in the IEP process and procedural safeguards, increased authority for school personnel in special education placement decisions, and alignment of IDEA with the No Child Left Behind Act. The 2004 reauthorization also requires school districts to use the Response to Intervention (RTI) approach as a means for the early identification of students at risk for specific learning disabilities. RTI provides a three-tiered model for screening, monitoring, and providing increasing degrees of intervention using “research-based instruction" with the overall goal of reducing the need for special education services
2005 - In the latest incarnation of the "Monkey Trial," the U.S. District Court of Pennsylvania rules in the case of Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District that teaching "intelligent design" as an alternative to evolution is a violation of the First Amendment.
2006 - The Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006 is reauthorized and signed into law on August 12. It is the fourth version of this law which was originally passed in 1984.
2007 - On January 1, 2007, the American Association on Mental Retardation (AAMR) became the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AAIDD), joining the trend toward use of the term intellectual disability in place of mental retardation.
2007 - Cho Seung-Hui, a 23-year-old student, kills two students in a dorm and then 30 others in a classroom building at Virginia Tech University. Fifteen others are wounded. His suicide brings the death toll to 33, making it the deadliest school shooting incident in U.S. history.
2007 - In the cases of Parents involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No 1 and Meredith v. Jefferson County Board of Education, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that race cannot be a factor in assigning students to high schools, thus rejecting integration plans in Seattle and Louisville, and possibly affecting similar plans in school districts around the nation.
2007 - Both the House and Senate pass the Fiscal Year 2008 Labor-HHS- Education appropriation bill which includes reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act. However, the bill is vetoed by President Bush because it exceeds his budget request. Attempts to override the veto fall short.
2008 - Less than one year after the Virginia Tech massacre, former graduate student Stephen P. Kazmierczak kills five and wounds 17 in a classroom at Northern Illinois University. He later takes his own life.
2008 - Barack Obama defeats John McCain and is elected the 44th President of the United States. Substantial changes in the No Child Left Behind Act are eventually expected, but with two ongoing wars as well as the current preoccupation with our nation's economic problems, reauthorization of NCLB is unlikely to happen any time soon.
2009 - The American Reinvestment and Recovery Act of 2009 provides more than 90-billion dollars for education, nearly half of which goes to local school districts to prevent layoffs and for school modernization and repair. It includes the Race to the Top initiative, a 4.35-billion-dollar program designed to induce reform in K-12 education. For more information on the impact of the Recovery Act on education, go to ED.gov.
2009 - The Common Core State Standards Initiative, "a state-led effort coordinated by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) and the Council of Chief State School Officers," is launched. It is expected that many, perhaps most, states will adopt them.
2009 - Quest to Learn (Q2L), the first school to teach primarily through game-based learning, opens in September in New York City with a class of sixth graders There are plans to add a grade each year until the school serves students in grades six through twelve.
2010 - With the U.S. economy mired in the "great recession" and unemployment remaining high, states have massive budget deficits. Many teachers face layoffs..
2010 - New Texas social studies curriculum standards, described by some as “ultraconservative,” spark controversy. Many fear they will affect textbooks and classrooms in other states..
2011 - Sylvia Mendez, whose parents were lead plaintiffs in the historic civil rights case, Mendez vs. Westminster and the California Board of Education, is awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom on February 16th..
2011 - In spite of workers' protests and Democratic legislators leaving the state to delay the vote, the Wisconsin legislature passes a bill removing most collective-bargaining rights from many public employees, including teachers. Governor Scott Walker signs the bill into law on March 11. After legal challenges are exhausted, it is finally implemented in June. A similar measure passes in Ohio but is later repealed through a state referendum.
2011 - President Barack Obama announces on September 23 that the U.S. Department of Education is inviting each State educational agency to request flexibility regarding some requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act.
2011 - Alabama becomes the first state "to require public schools to check the immigration status" of students. Though the law does not require schools to prohibit the enrollment nor report the names of undocumented children, opponents nevertheless contend it is unconstitutional based on the Plyler v. Doe ruling.
2012 - President Barack Obama announces on February 9 that the applications of ten states seeking waivers from some of the requirements of the No Child Left Behind law were approved. New Mexico's application is approved a few days later, bringing the number of states receiving waivers to 11. An additional 26 states apply for waivers in late February.
2012 - On July 6, Washington and Wisconsin become the two most recent states to be granted waivers from some requirements of the federal No Child left Behind law, bringing the total number of states granted waivers to 26. Several more states have submitted waiver applications and are waiting for approval.
2012 - As of December, 33 states and Washington, D.C. have been granted waivers from some No Child Left Behind requirements.
2012 - On December 14, Adam Lanza, 20, kills his mother and then invades Sandy Hook Elementary School where he kills 20 children and six adults, including principal Dawn Hochsprung and psychologist Mary Sherlachmaking, making this the second deadliest mass shooting by a single person in U.S. history.
2013 - On January 11, the Washington Post reports that Seattle high school teachers have refused to give the district-mandated Measures of Academy Progress, joining a "growing grass-roots revolt against the excessive use of standardized tests."
2013 - On May 22, the Chicago Board of Education votes to close 50 schools, the largest mass closing in U.S. history. Mayor Rahm Emanuel and CPS officials claim the closures are not only necessary to reduce costs, but will also improve educational quality. However, Chicago teachers and other opponents say the closures disproportionately affect low-income and minority students, but their efforts to stop the closings, which included tthree lawsuits, were unsuccessful. Other cities, including Detroit, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C., have also recently closed large numbers of public schools.
2013 - The School District of Philadelphia announces on June 7 that it will cut nearly 4000 employees, including 676 teachers as well as many administrators and guidance counselors.
2013 - On Friday, June 14 the Chicago Public Schools announce that they will be laying off 663 employees, including 420 teachers. A month later, they lay off another 2100 employees including more than 1000 teachers! CPS blames the layoffs on "the state's failure to enact pension reform."
2013 - In the case of Fisher v. University of Texas, the U.S. Supreme Court rules on June 25 that affirmative action is constitutional only if it is “narrowly tailored.” The Court then sends the case back to the lower courts to determine if the University of Texas policy meets this standard.
2013 - William Glasser, author of more than two dozen books including Choice Theory and Schools Without Failure, dies at age 88.
2013 - On October 21, a 13-year-old student arrives on the campus of Sparks, Nevada middle school armed with a handgun. He wounds two 12-year old boys and kills a teacher who was trying to protect other students before he turns the gun on himself and takes his own life.
2013 - The most recent results of the Program for International Student Assessment, released December 2, 2013, show that the achievement of U.S. teenagers continues to lag behind that of their counterparts in other developed countries, particularly those in Asia.
2013 - In yet another school shooting tragedy, high school senior Karl Pierson enters Arapohoe High School (Centennial, Colorado) on December 13 armed with a shotgun, machete, and Molotov Cocktails. His goal apparently was to take revenge on the school librarian and debate coach who had disciplined him earlier in the school year. Instead, before taking his own life, he critically wounds a female classmate. She dies eight days later.
2014 - President Barack Obama signs the 1.1-trillion dollar bipartisan budget bill on January 17. The bill restores some, but not all, of the cuts to federal education programs that resulted from sequestration. It is the first budget to be agreed to by our divided government since 2009!
2014 - On March 24, Indiana Governor Mike Pence signs legislation withdrawing the state from the Core Standards. Indiana becomes the first state to do so. However, aspects of the Common Core may still be included in Indiana's "new" standards.
2014 - The Civil Rights Project report, Brown at 60: Great Progress, a Long Retreat, and an Uncertain Future, is published on May 15. It shows what many teachers already know: a decline in non-Hispanic Caucasian students, a large increase in Latino students, and the growth of segregation, both by race and poverty, particularly among Latinos in central cities and suburbs of the largest metropolitan areas.
2014 - Based on a report from a group called Every Town for Gun Safety, a CNN article published on June 12 states that there have been 74 school shootings in the last 18 months, 15 of which have been "Newtown-like incidents." What the heck is going on?
2014 - In the case of Vergara v. California, the Superior Court of the State of California rules that laws regarding teacher tenure, seniority rights and dismissal are unconstitutional. California is not the only state where attempts are being made to weaken or eliminate teacher tenure protections.
2014 - As schools open this fall, a demographic milestone is reached: minority students enrolled in K-12 public school classrooms outnumber non-Hispanic Caucasians.
2014 - More teacher layoffs in Chicago! CPS announces on June 26 that its latest round of layoffs will total than 1000 employees, including approximately 550 teachers.
2014 - The Minnesota State High School League votes on December 4 to adopt a policy allowing transgender students to join female sports teams. Minnesota is the 33rd state to have a formal transgender student policy.
2015 - On January 9, President Barack Obama announces a plan to allow two years of free community college for all American students. However, with Republicans in control of both the House and Senate, there seems little hope that this proposal will be implemented any time soon.
2015 - New York parents opt 150,000 kids out of standardized tests as the revolt against high-stakes testing grows.
2015 - Another senseless, mass school shooting occurs on October 1 when Chris Harper Mercer kills nine and wounds several others at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon. As always seems to be the case, the slaughter ends when the shooter takes his own life. Are these tragedies really becoming "routine" as President Obama says?
2015 - President Obama joins the "too-much-testing" movement as his new plan calls for limiting "standardized testing to no more than 2% of class time."
2015 - On December 9, the U.S. Senate votes 85-12 to approve the Every Student Succeeds Act, and President Obama signs it into law on December 10. This latest version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) replaces No Child Left Behind and allows more state control in judging school quality.
2016 - More than 60 schools in Detroit are forced to close on Monday, January 11th due to a teacher "sick out" called to protest conditions in the Detroit Public Schools, which are "drowning under 3.5 billion of debt."
2016 - On May 13, the federal government tells school districts "to allow transgender students to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity." Though the directive is not a law, districts that do not comply could face lawsuits or lose federal aid.
2016 - On August 21, a federal judge in Texas signs a temporary injunction allowing schools to opt out of the above transgender bathroom directive.
2016 - Donald Trump defeats Hillary Clinton and is elected President of the United States. One can only wonder what this means for American education.
2016 - President-elect Donald Trump names billionaire and school-choice advocate Betsy DeVos Secretary of Education.
2017 - On February 7, Vice President Mike Pence casts the deciding vote, breaking a 50-50 tie in the Senate, to confirm Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education. Many educators criticize her lack of academic credentials and experience.
2017 - February 22: President Donald Trump rescinds the Obama administration's controversial transgender bathroom directive. The issue may eventually be decided by the courts.
2017 - July 6: Eighteen states and the District of Columbia sue Betsy DeVos and the U.S. Department of Education over delays in implementing regulations protecting student loan recipients.
2017 - President Donald Trump signs the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act into law on December 22nd. The bill lowers corporate taxes as well as those for most individuals. Educational implications include maintaining the $250 limit on deductions teachers can take for school supplies and expanding the use of 529 savings plans for K-12 private and homeschool costs. The final bill does not include provisions to tax graduate student tuition benefits nor those provided to college and university employees. However, some education advocates believe the tax bill may hurt public school funding and reduce donations to colleges and universities.
2018 - Nicholas Cruz is charged with 17 counts of murder in yet another horrific school massacre. This attack, that occurred February 14th in Parkland, Florida, brings the total number of school shooting incidents for this year to 18. Eight have resulted in injury or death, including the Marshall County High School (Kentucky) shooting that left two dead and many others injured. Is there no end to these senseless tragedies?
2018 - In the wake of the Parkland, Florida massacre, Marjory Stoneman Douglas students become passionate advocates for gun control and school safety. Their activism soon spreads across the nation. In a meeting with students, parents, and teachers affected by gun violence, President Trump promises more rigorous background checks and better mental health screenings for gun buyers. He later suggests training and arming teachers in order to improve school safety. Both the AFT and NEA reject this idea.
2018 - Schools are closed throughout West Virginia on February 22nd as teachers walk out to protest their pay and benefits. West Virginia teacher salaries are among the lowest in the nation.
2018 - The West Virginia teacher strike ends as Governor Jim Justice signs legislation on March 6th giving teachers, as well as all other state employees, a 5% pay increase. Which state will be next?
2018 - In response to the Parkland, Florida school shootings, Florida Governor Rick Scott signs legislation on March 9 that, among other things, raises the minimum age to purchase a firearm to 21 and imposes a three-day waiting period for firearm purchases. The bill also allows some school personnel to carry firearms. The state is promptly sued by the NRA!
2018 - Thousands of students across the nation walk out of classrooms on March 14 demanding changes in gun laws.
2018 - March 24: Hundreds of thousands of students from across the nation join the March for Our Lives protest in Washington , DC as well as many other cities.
2018 - March 30: Following the successful outcome of the West Virginia teachers strike, teachers from Kentucky, Arizona, and Oklahoma begin to take action to improve their pay and benefits.
2018 - April 13: Though schools will remain closed for at least one more day in Oklahoma's largest cities, many are set to reopen as the Oklahoma Education Association calls for teachers to end their strike. Teachers will receive an increase in pay; however, many remain concerned about education funding cuts that have forced about one-fifth of the state's school districts to reduce to four-day school weeks. Elsewhere, as the the Kentucky Education Association encourages teachers to protest at the state capital.
2018 - Students from across the nation protest gun violence on April 20th (National Walkout Day), which marks the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting tragedy.
2018: May 4: The Arizona teachers strike ends as legislators pass both a pay increase and school-funding plan.
2018: May 19: Ten are killed and 10 more wounded at Santa Fe High School (Texas) in the latest senseless school shooting incident.
Additional References (print references and online references not linked in the text above):
Barger, R.N. (2004). History of American Education Web Project. Retrieved December 21, 2004 from http://www.ux1.eiu.edu/%7Ecfrnb/index.html
Applied Research Center (2008). Historical Timeline of Public Education in the US. Retrieved December 28, 2008 from http://www.arc.org/content/view/100/53/
Helton, Gene. (No Date). Curriculum Development in 20th Century United States. Retrieved January 2, 2005 from http://www.personal.kent.edu/~whelton/index.html. The link is no longer active.
Lloyd, J. W. (2005). Chronology of Some Important Events in the History of Learning Disabilities. Retrieved June 22, 2009 from http://faculty.virginia.edu/johnlloyd/edis511/classes/LD_Times.html.
Rippa, S. Alexander (1971). Education in a Free Society, (2nd. Edition ). New York: David McKay Company.
Stankiewicz, M.A. (No Date). The History of Art Education Timeline. Retrieved June 22, 2009 from http://www.personal.psu.edu/faculty/m/a/mas53/timelint.html
Thayer, V. T. (1965). Formative Ideas in American Education . New York: Dodd, Mead, and Company.
Please consider this timeline to be a work in progress. If you see an error or have a suggestion for an important event that should be added, send it to me at email@example.com. I will review your idea, and if I think it has merit, I will add it to the timeline.
Permission is granted to anyone wishing to use this page or the related lesson plan for instructional purposes as long as you credit the author (me!) and the web page source. My name is Edmund Sass, Ed.D., Professor Emeritus of Education, College of Saint Benedict/Saint John's University. Please understand, however, that the content of this page is my intellectual property and cannot be duplicated or displayed on another web site or in a publication without my permission.