When Did the Education Reform Start?

The education reform movement started in the early 1900s. Some of the earliest reformers were John Dewey and Maria Montessori. Dewey believed that education should be more than just memorizing facts. He emphasized the importance of critical thinking and problem solving. Montessori believed that children should be allowed to learn at their own pace and in their own way.

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The history of education reform in the United States began in the 19th century. Horace Mann is considered the father of American public education, and his reforms served as a model for other states. Mann believed that all children, regardless of social class, should have access to a free, high-quality education.

In the 20th century, John Dewey’s philosophy of education prioritized the needs of the individual learner over standardized curricula. This approach was further developed by educators such as Lev Vygotsky and Jean Piaget. Contemporary educational reformers continue to call for individualized approaches to learning, as well as increased funding for public schools.

The Beginnings of Education Reform

Horace Mann and the Common School

In 1837, Horace Mann became the first Secretary of the Massachusetts Board of Education. He is considered the father of American public education for his work in formalizing and professionalizing the teaching profession, as well as promoting education for all children regardless of social class.

Mann believed that education should be free and accessible to all children, regardless of social class. He also believed that education should be standardized across the country in order to promote national unity. In order to achieve these goals, Mann advocated for the establishment of common schools, which would be publicly funded and open to all children.

Common schools were an important step forward in American education, but they were not without their critics. Some argued that public education would lead to moral decline and social disintegration. Others arguing that it would simply be too expensive to provide quality education to all children.

Despite these criticisms, Horace Mann’s work laid the foundations for modern American public education. His advocacy for free, universal education helped create a system that provides opportunity for all children, regardless of background or circumstance.

The Civil War and Reconstruction

The Civil War and Reconstruction saw the beginnings of education reform in the United States. The Union victory in the war led to the abolition of slavery, and the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution granted African Americans full citizenship rights. These changes created a new market for literacy among African Americans, who had been excluded from formal education under slavery.

In response, a number of African American schools and colleges were founded, including Tuskegee University and Hampton University. The Freedmen’s Bureau, a federal agency established to aid former slaves, also helped to establish hundreds of schools for African American children in the South.

While Reconstruction did not last long (it was ended by a conservative backlash in 1877), it did lay the groundwork for future education reform efforts. These efforts would eventually lead to the establishment of public school systems across the United States and to equal access to education for all Americans.

The Progressive Era

The Progressive Era was a time of wide-ranging social and political reform in the United States, from the 1890s to the 1920s. Progressive reformers were motivated by an increased sense of social responsibility, as typified by Theodore Roosevelt’s famous maxim, “The welfare of each of us is dependent fundamentally upon the welfare of all of us.” The progressives typically concentrated on city and state government, looking for abuses and inefficiencies, and then working to correct them. They also sought to increase opportunities for women and minorities.

The Contemporary Era

In the late 20th century, American education was considered the best in the world. By the early 21st century, that was no longer the case. American students began to lag behind their international counterparts, and something had to be done. The education reform started in the early 21st century in an effort to improve American education.

The No Child Left Behind Act

The No Child Left Behind Act was signed into law by President George W. Bush on January 8, 2002. The law reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 and included new provisions to hold schools accountable for the academic progress of all students, especially those from low-income families or other traditionally underserved groups.

The key provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act are:

-Schools must administer annual state tests in reading and math to all students in grades 3-8 and once in high school. Schools must also give achievement tests in science to all students at least once between grades 3 and 12.

-States must set performance goals for all students and subgroups of students, including those from low-income families, minority groups, English language learners, and students with disabilities.

-States must identify schools that are not making adequate progress toward meeting their performance goals and provide technical assistance and other support to help them improve.

-Schools that persistently fail to make adequate progress must take steps to improve student achievement, including adopting a new curriculum, hiring highly qualified teachers, extending the school day or year, or implementing experimental programs approved by the U.S. Department of Education.

The Common Core Standards

In 2010, the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers released the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). The CCSS were designed to establish consistent educational standards across the country in an effort to make American students “college and career ready.”

All but four states have adopted the CCSS, and implementation has been ongoing since 2010. The standards are divided into two categories: English Language Arts & Literacy (ELA) and Mathematics. The ELA standards are further broken down into reading, writing, speaking & listening, and language.

The CCSS have been controversial since their release. Some people argue that the standards are too prescriptive and take away from local control of education. Others argue that the standards are not rigorous enough. In any case, the CCSS have had a major impact on education in the United States and will continue to do so in the years to come.


The answer to this question is still being debated by historians, but most agree that the education reform movement began in the early 19th century. The main goal of the reformers was to make education more accessible to all citizens, regardless of social status or wealth. Many different factors contributed to the onset of the reform movement, including the Industrial Revolution, political revolutions in Europe, and an increasing belief in the importance of public education.

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