Barb Ehlers

Timeline of Educational Curriculum in the United States
ELEMECML 7352-Spring 2013
Barb Ehlers
Colonial America
1636- Harvard College was founded. The curriculum was primarily based on religion
and literary studies.
1647- The colony of Massachusetts passes a law that every township of 50 or more
households appoint of teacher of reading and writing. Those with 100 or more must
establish a Latin grammar school. The Latin grammar school was primarily for
religious training.
1749- Benjamin Franklin proposed an academy that would emphasize training in
practical subjects.1
19th Century
1837- Horace Mann was named the first secretary of education for the state of
Massachusetts. He believed that education should be controlled and paid for by
the public and all were entitled to an education. He held a strong belief that
teachers should be models of virtue.
1857- The National Teachers Association was founded to represent all educators.
1870-The National Teachers Association becomes the National Education
Association (NEA).
1876- The NEA presented a report, A Course of Study from Primary School to
University. This report asked for a unified curriculum based on subject matter.
1893- NEA issues: Report of the Committee of Ten on Secondary Schools. The
report recommended subjects and time allotments for high schools. The primary
purpose was preparation for college.
1895- A group of Herbartians, The Committee of Fifteen, proposed an elementary
school curriculum which was child-centered and included subjects for their social
1879-John Dewey began his career as an educator. His influence on education
including progressive education and a focus on experience in education is still felt
20th Century and Beyond
1918-NEA appointed a commission to examine the curriculum of secondary schools.
The Cardinal Principles of Secondary Education was published as a federal bulletin.
This bulletin focused secondary school curriculum on life’s experiences, not just
subject matter. They developed seven objectives of education:
1. Health
2. Command of fundamental processes
3. Worthy home membership
4. Vocation
5. Citizenship
6. Worthy use of leisure
7. Ethical Character
1918-The Curriculum, by J. Franklin Bobbitt, was published; the first book to focus
on curriculum principles and procedures.
1923- Curriculum Construction, by W.W. Charter introduced “activity analysis”
linking the curriculum directly to society.
1923-1952-Jean Piaget researches and develops his four stages of cognitive
development. These stages influenced curriculum a great in focusing on individual
development and the dependence on constructivist experiences in education.
1924- How to Make a Curriculum (Bobbitt) explains procedures to guide selections
of activities of daily living for school programs.
1927- National Society for the Study of Education (NSSE), published the 1927
NSSE Yearbook which delineated eighteen central questions as the foundation on
which curriculum decisions are based. The questions included all three aspects of
curriculum; subject matter, society, and individuals.
1930- The Progressive Education Association undertakes the Eight-Year Study to
determine the effect of traditional high school curriculum design and experimental
curriculum design on the success of those students in college. The study showed
that those students who experienced a curriculum developed by the students and
their teachers showed a slight academic advantage and were better off in their
personal lives.
1942- The Eight-Year Study was published and largely ignored due to the
preoccupation of the United States in World War II.
1949- The results of the Eight-Year Study did influence professional development
curriculum workshops. The Basic Principles of Curriculum and Instruction by Ralph
Tyler was influential in curriculum planning following World War II and is still wellrespected today.
1940’s-1950’s- As a result of the war, Americans again believed that education
should be more society-centered and less individual-centered.
1957- The Russians launched Sputnik, the first satellite to orbit the earth. The
United States viewed this as a threat to our nation’s security and blamed a weak
educational system.
1960- The Process of Education, by Jerome Bruner is published. He viewed
children as active problem solvers ready to tackle difficult subjects. He coined the
term, “spiraled curriculum” in which topics are approached at different levels
during a child’s education.
1960’s- The Curriculum Reform Movement led to federally-funded workshops
(mostly science and math) to acquaint teachers with curriculum materials with
directions for teachers and students to ensure quality education. Success was
limited except when teachers modified the curriculum to suit the students in their
1960’s- Most Americans viewed education as imperative for success in life. The
general mood of the country was influenced by the Viet Nam War and the promise
by the Johnson administration to end poverty through education. Once again the
pendulum seemed to swing toward a common curriculum.
1970’s- Accountability of teachers in regard to students’ test scores led to a
narrowing of the curriculum to that which was easily testable.
1980’s- 700 national reports on the state of American education were prepared.
1983- The National Commission on Excellence in Education report, A Nation at Risk:
The Imperative for Educational Reform, declared the malaise of the school system
that could be remedied by curricular improvement. The first recommendation for
high school requirements was no different than previous requirements. Other
recommendations included more rigor, measureable standards, more time, and
improving salaries and working conditions for teachers. Ironically, it also included
no funding from the federal government to implement the recommendations.
1990’s-As a classroom teacher during this time, I constantly heard we needed to
improve education, but was never given clear guidelines in how to do so.
2001-No Child Left Behind Act passed by Congress and signed into law in 2002.
The act endorses emphasis on a few academic subjects, more time teaching them,
and testing students more often. Schools that do not make annual yearly progress
are first given funding to improve, then if unsuccessful, are run by the state or
2010-2011- The Common Core Standards for math and language arts are adopted
by a majority of states. Previously, states had spent a lot of time developing local
and state standards and benchmarks, but finally, a national common core curriculum
is developed and adopted. The standards are broad statements declaring what
students should know, understand, and be able to do at specific grade levels. This
standards-based movement gives teachers a basis for curriculum planning, but
allows for differentiation in delivery that can be modified for their students.