School System


First Free Schoolhouse

Approx. 1635

The first "free school" in Virginia opens. However, education in the Southern colonies is more typically provided at home by parents or tutors.

First College Opens

Approx. 1636

Harvard College, the first higher education institution in what is now the United States, is established in Newtowne (now Cambridge), Massachusetts.

Second College Opens

Approx. 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.

First English Academy

Approx. 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.

Two Track Education System


Thomas Jefferson proposes a two-track educational system, with different tracks for "the laboring and the learned."

First Women's Academy


The Young Ladies Academy opens in Philadelphia and becomes the first academy for girls in America.

First Blackboard


James Pillans invents the modern blackboard.

First Public High School


The first public high school, Boston English High School, opens .

First School for the Blind


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.

Mandatory Education


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.

First Kindergarten


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.

Civil War


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.

Dpt of Education est.


The Department of Education is created in order to help states establish effective school systems.

First Female Superintendent


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.

Educational Reformation


The Progressive Education Association is founded with the goal of reforming American education.

Works Progress Administration


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.

National School Lunch Act


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.

Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka


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.



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.

Protesters Shot


Four students are killed by Ohio National Guard troops on May 4th during an anti-war protest at Kent State University in Ohio.

Personal Computers


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.

Charter School


Minnesota passes the first "charter school" law.



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.