American Education Reform: History, Policy, Practice

University of Pennsylvania

Embark on a fascinating journey through the history of U.S. education reform with the course "American Education Reform: History, Policy, Practice" offered by the University of Pennsylvania.

Explore the evolution of education in the U.S., from the Colonial Period to post-1983, delving into the social, political, and cultural forces that have influenced the development of the education system. Engage with the key actors, pivotal decisions, and major turning points that have shaped the landscape of American schooling.

Throughout this comprehensive course, you will gain insights into the struggles, developments, and innovations that have driven education reform, understanding how historical tensions in U.S. education policy and practice continue to impact schools on a national and global scale.

By the end of the course, you will have a profound understanding of the historical context and complexities of education reform in the U.S., enabling you to critically analyze and contribute to discussions surrounding the future of education.

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American Education Reform: History, Policy, Practice
Course Modules

American Education Reform: History, Policy, Practice offers an in-depth exploration of U.S. education reform, spanning from the Colonial Period to post-1983, examining the key actors, decisions, and societal influences that have shaped the education system.

The Colonial Period and Early Republic

Delve into the early foundations of U.S. education, exploring the Colonial Period and Early Republic. Gain insights into the transformation of education during this pivotal era, from literacy to the establishment of common schools and academies.

  • Course Introduction
  • U.S. Education - An Early Transformation
  • Literacy in the Colonial Period
  • Institutions of Colonial Education
  • Early Republic Proponents of Common Schools
  • Early Republic Schooling in the United States
  • Benjamin Franklin’s Academy

The National Period

Explore the impact of the National Period on U.S. education, examining the influence of the national market economy, social innovations, and the establishment of common schools. Gain insights into the education of African Americans, Native Americans, and the expansion of secondary schooling.

  • The National Market Economy
  • "What God Hath Wrought": Dramatic Social Innovations
  • Horace Mann: Avatar of Common Schools
  • The Common School Idea as a Social Movement
  • Protestants and Catholics in the Arena
  • Education of African Americans and Native Americans
  • Secondary Schooling in the Common School Era

Postbellum Period

Uncover the developments during the Postbellum Period, focusing on the expansion of common schools, the education of African Americans in the Reconstruction South, and the rise of the American high school. Gain insights into the impact of Jim Crow and the education of Native Americans.

  • Expansion of the Common School
  • After Emancipation: Education of African Americans in the Reconstruction South
  • Industrial Education in the South's Organic Society
  • Jim Crow and the Radical Segregation of African Americans
  • Boarding Schools for Native Americans
  • The Rise of the American High School

The Progressive Era

Immerse yourself in the Progressive Era, examining the rise of education reform and the influence of administrative progressives, psychological testing, social efficiency schooling, and the education movement in the South. Gain insights into the education of African Americans and the impact of the Rosenwald Schools.

  • Progressive Seedbeds of Education Reform
  • Rise of the Administrative Progressives in American School Reform
  • Psychological Testing Movement
  • Social Efficiency Schooling
  • The Committee of Ten
  • The Southern Education Movement
  • Rosenwald Schools and County Training Schools for African Americans

John Dewey and the Pedagogical Progressives

Explore the influence of John Dewey and the Pedagogical Progressives, focusing on the theory of knowledge, the school as a social center, and the critique of the pedagogical progressives. Engage with the impact of Dewey's educational philosophy on the U.S. schooling system.

  • The Laboratory School of the University of Chicago
  • Dewey’s Theory of Knowledge
  • Dewey’s Idea of the School as a Social Center
  • Dewey: Missing in Action
  • The Pedagogical Progressives
  • A Neo-Deweyan Critique of the Pedagogical Progressives

The Depression Era

Examine the influence of the Depression Era on U.S. education, focusing on the impact of the Great Depression, the New Deal for America's youth, and the development of community schools. Gain insights into the educational initiatives that emerged during this challenging period.

  • The Great Depression and a New Deal for America's Youth
  • High Schools in Hard Times
  • Social Reconstruction and the Schools
  • Antecedents to America's Community Schools: Social Centers and Community Centers
  • The Nambé Community School
  • Arthurdale
  • Leonard Covello's Community High School in East Harlem

Post-World War II

Uncover the impact of the post-World War II era on U.S. education, exploring topics such as life adjustment education, the Cold War's influence on public schools, and the developments in academic rigor and racial integration. Gain insights into the evolution of education post-World War II.

  • Life Adjustment Education
  • The Cold War, McCarthyism, and the Public Schools
  • Waging the Cold War in Schools: Federal Support for Academic Rigor
  • "Radical Romanticists"
  • Education and the Civil Rights Movement: From Plessy to Brown
  • The Last Hurrah of Jim Crow Schools
  • Busing Goes North: The Limits of Racial Integration
  • Community Control and Teacher Unions
  • Title IX and the "Hidden Injuries of Coeducation"


Explore the developments in education reform post-1983, focusing on the expanded federal role, standards and accountability, No Child Left Behind, public school choice, and teacher education. Gain insights into the modern challenges and innovations in U.S. education.

  • The Expanded Federal Role in Education Reform: The Elementary & Secondary Education
  • Ramping Up Reform: The Rise of Standards and Accountability
  • No Child Left Behind: Still Leaving Children Behind?
  • Public School Choice: Charter Schools
  • School Choice Run Amok? Diverse Providers and Portfolio Management Models
  • Attacking the Ed School's Teacher Education Monopoly
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