History of Education

History of Education

First Known School

Approx. 2000 BC

Cuneiform mathematics textbooks from this time period have been discovered. This suggests that some form of schooling may have existed in Sumer during that time. Formal schools are also known to have existed in China during this time period.

Age of Pericles

0455 BC - 431 BC

Most Greek city-states have adopted a formal educational system. Sparta used their educational system to train their children for effective military support. Athens, however, stressed more intellectual and aesthetic lessons.

Development of Roman Schools

50 BC - 200 AD

The Romans were heavily influenced by the Greek education system. Many children, after learning to read and write, attended a school to study Latin, literature, history, math, music, and dialectics. These Latin schools are very similar to secondary schools in the 20th century.

The Dark Ages

400 - 1000

During this period, the common people were politically and religiously oppressed, which stunted the ability for the population to grow and innovate intellectually as the Greeks and Romans previously had. Although formal education was not an option for most people, certain people in the church and in wealthy families were able to receive education and make small advances.

Thomas Aquinas

1225 - 1274

During the medieval times, most people were taught by Catholic priests, many of whom were corrupt. Through his works as a theologian, Thomas Aquinas helped to change the churches view on how commoners should learn and grow in knowledge. Thomas Aquinas helped pave the way for the creation of medieval universities.

The Renaissance

Approx. 1350 - 1700

The Renaissance, which started in Italy, was a rebirth of the people's thirst for new knowledge. The Renaissance slowly spread throughout Europe, which led to a revival of classical learning known as "humanism."

Earliest American Colleges Established

Approx. 1630 - Approx. 1640

The first colonial college, Harvard, was established in 1636 to prepare ministers. A few years later, other schools such as Yale, Princeton, Dartmouth, and Brown are established.

John Locke

1632 - 1704

John Locke was one of the most influential Enlightenment philosophers. In 1678, he wrote an essay titled "Concerning Human Understanding." In this essay, he discusses his belief that at birth, our minds are a blank slate, and that we gain knowledge through experience. His views of the mind and how people learn were greatly influential to the US educational system.

Old Deluder Satan Act


This act decreed that every town of 50 families or more needs to hire a schoolmaster who would teach the town's children to read and write and that all towns of at least 100 families need to have a Latin grammar school teacher who would prepare students to attend Harvard.

American Academy


In 1751, Benjamin Franklin founded the American Academy, an educational institution. Its curriculum was both classical and modern, which included lessons in history, geography, navigation, surveying, and languages. This went on to become the University of Pennsylvania.

State Control of Education


When the 10th Amendment of the United States Constitution is passed, the individual states gain the right to control education.

Invention of the Blackboard


In 1801, James Pillans invented the blackboard when he hung a large slate on the classroom wall.

Compulsory Education


In 1524, during the Reformation, Martin Luther had advocated for compulsory schooling so that all parishioners would be able to read the Bible. In 1852, Massachusetts passed a law making education mandatory. This spread throughout the country, and the final state to adopt it was Mississippi in 1917.

Invention of the Typewriter


In 1867, Christopher Sholes invented the modern typewriter. This was later manufactured by E. Remington & Sons in 1873.

Dewey Decimal System


In 1873, the Dewey Decimal System, developed by Melvil Dewey, was patented and published. This became the world's most used library organization/classification system.

High School Curriculum


A standardized high school curriculum was formed by the National Education Association to establish a standard secondary school curriculum, the Committee of Ten, recommended a curriculum that was college oriented, which laid the foundation to high schools today.

Pencils and Paper


Mass produced pencils and paper are starting to become more accessible, which eventually replaced the school slate, and made writing easier.

First Community College


In 1901, Joliet Junior College in Joliet, Illinois, opened, and became the first community college in America.



The Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) was first administered in 1926. The SAT is owned, published, and developed by the College Board, a nonprofit organization in the United States. The test was developed to assess a student's readiness for college.

IQ Testing


In 1939, David Wechsler developed the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale. This introduced "deviation IQ," which calculates scores based on how far from the average subject's score another subject's score is. These tests are still used widely in schools to determine students needing special needs.

First Computer

Approx. 1946 - Approx. 1956

The Electronic Numerical Integrator And Computer (ENIAC), the first vacuum-tube computer, was built for the U.S. military by Presper Eckert and John Mauchly in the 1950s. This marked the beginning of the computer age.

Brown v. Board of Education


The United States Supreme Court passes the case, Brown v. Board of Education, which makes segregated schools illegal.



In November of 1959, Everett Franklin Lindquist administered the first ACT test as as direct competition to the SAT. The ACT has usually consisted of 4 different tests: English, Math, Reading, and Science Reasoning. Although the SAT is the standard, the ACT is still very popular, and is used exclusively in certain districts.

First Computer Used in School


Computers were first used in New York elementary schools to teach arithmetic. This was the beginning of a major technological revolution in education.

First African American Child to Attend All White Elementary


At William Frantz Elementary School in New Orleans, Ruby Bridges, a first grader, was the first African American child to attend. She eventually became the only child in the class, because all the white parents pulled their students out of the class.

Tinker v. Des Moines


During the Vietnam War, students in the Des Moines wore black armbands in protest. The district passed a rule prohibiting the bands, but the students argued it infringed on their First Amendment rights. The court agreed with the students and struck down the ban.

Handheld Calculator


Serving as the predecessor to the TI-83, this first calculator was originally concerning to teachers, as they feared it would undermine students' learning.

Scantron Grading System


In 1972, the Scantron Corporation removed the need to grade multiple choice tests by hand. The machines were free to use, but the company charged for the grading forms.



Although the inventor of the whiteboard has been heavily debated, they first started to gain popularity in the 90's, partly due to students having allergic reactions to the chalkboard dust.

Higher Education Act


This act was amended and reauthorized, and required institutions and states to produce report cards about teacher education performance. This was another attempt to unify the educational experience in the USA.

No Child Left Behind Act


The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) was approved by Congress and signed into law by President George W. Bush in January of 2002. This law mandates high-stakes student testing, holds schools accountable for the students' achievement levels, and punishes schools that do not make adequate yearly progress toward meeting the goals of NCLB.

Common Core


The Common Core State Standards Initiatives is launched which details what K-12 students should know at the end of the year.