History of American Education

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Old Deluder Satan Law

1647

Law first passed in Massachusetts and later copied by other colonies mandating that towns of 50 or more families employ someone to teach children to read so that Satan could not take advantage of their biblical illiteracy and lead them away from Puritanism.

Horace Mann; Mass. Board of Education

1837

Secretary of the Massachusetts Board of Education from 1837 to 1848 and the most influential U.S. advocate for free common schools.

National Education Association Founded

1847

Founded in 1847 as a professional association for educators, the NEA regularly appointed committees to study problems of school curriculum and organization.

Bishop John Hughes

1850

1850 appointed Archbishop; New York bishop and later archbishop who led New York Catholics out of the public school system and to the creation of a separate parochial system of schools for Catholic children.

Compulsory Education Act

1852

Laws passed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries making school attendance mandatory and criminalizing truancy. The compulsory attendance act of 1852 enacted by the state of Massachusetts was the first general law attempting to control the conditions of children. The law included mandatory attendance for children between the ages of eight and fourteen for at least three months out of each year, of these twelve weeks at least six had to be consecutive.

Blaine Amendment Proposed

1875

Failed constitutional amendment proposed by Congressman James G. Blaine that would have expressly forbidden the use of public funds for religious education. In the wake of the constitutional amendment's failure, several states passed their own versions, which to this day are called Blaine Amendments.

Plessy V. Ferguson

1898

The 1898 Supreme Court decision finding that racial segregation was constitutional under the "separate but equal"doctrine. This ruling was overturned in the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision.

American Federation of Teachers Founded

1916

Teacher union founded in 1916 that took an aggressive stance on advocating for issues of teacher salaries and benefits; membership consisted primarily of male secondary teachers in the urban setting.

Smith-Hughes Act

1917

Legislation passed in 1917 that provided federal funding for vocational and technical education.

Pierce V. Society of Sisters

1925

Landmark Supreme Court case granting parents the right to send their children to private schools but also allowing for government regulation of those schools.

Brown V. Board of Education

1954

The landmark 1954 Supreme Court decision that unanimously found that racially segregated schools are inherently unequal and hence violate the 14th Amendment's equal protection clause.

Civil Rights Act of 1964

1964

Landmark legislation that prohibited discrimination against minorities and women in public facilities, government, and employment. The act led to profound changes in hiring practices, schooling, and housing.

Elementary and Second Education Act

1965

Law first passed in 1965 as part of President Lyndon B. Johnson's War on Poverty. It has been reauthorized several times under different names, most recently as the 2002 No Child Left Behind Act.

Head Start Program

1965

Federal program created in 1965 as a preschool program for young children from disadvantaged backgrounds.

BiLingual Education Act

1968

The 1968 law encouraging and funding programs to offer students whose native language is not English classroom instruction in their native tongue. The 1974 Lau v. Nichols Supreme Court decision made provision of bilingual education services mandatory.

Public Law 94-142

1974

Passed in 1974, this was Congress's first full-scale law mandating integrated special education in every state of the nation, the culmination of decades of advocacy and legal challenges to the segregated system.

Department of Education ReEstablished

1979

Organization tasked with overseeing the federal government's educational spending and mandates. Though it existed fleetingly in the late 1860s, it was reestablished on a permanent basis in 1979, with its secretary serving on the president's Cabinet.

Influential Department of Education

1983

The Department of Education sponsored report issued in 1983 that called for more rigorous standards in public schools to help the country stay competitive in the global economy.

Charlottesville Education Summit

1989

Landmark meeting of President George H. W. Bush and the nation's governors that led to the formulation of national educational goals that were later adapted and enshrined in federal law.

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Re-authorization

1990

The 1990 reauthorization and revision of PL 94-142.

Goals 2000

1994

Federal law established in 1994 under President Bill Clinton that set standards for eight national education goals and allocated funding to help states voluntarily meet them.

No Child Left Behind

2001

The 2001 reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act under President George W. Bush, passed overwhelmingly by both parties, stressing high academic standards, annual assessment of students, and penalties for schools that fail to make adequate yearly progress toward meeting federal goals.