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Who were the education reform leaders in the United States?

I’m doing research for my education coursework, and I’m interested in getting to know the transition in American education. Who were the education reform leaders that had their ideas permeated into the US education system and what was the impact of these ideas? For my paper, I also want to know more about the following aspects of American education reform:

  • urban education reform
  • special education reform movements
  • conservative education reform

Answering these four questions will probably give me enough material to start drafting and create an abstract.

Dana Keller

in Education News

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Tara Andrews on March 6, 2018

Hi there. A great place to start your paper is to start with the major voices in the reform agenda of education. There have been voices in education since the 19th century. Give the following Harvard.edu article a read to see what the modern era says about education in the United States.  The reform leaders in education I suggest you should focus on most are:

  • Horace Mann: He is regarded by all as a father of public education in the US. He advocated a system that taught strict moral values, the common-school movement with taxes financing these schools, the age-grading system and a public education system that championed discipline and values. He especially championed non-sectarian system in these public schools.
  • John Dewey: Although more of a philosopher than an educator, Dewey is influential in American education reform. He proposed an ‘experiential’ system for education that allowed kids to practice what they learn, and he proposed that at each level children should learn by doing.

There are other voices that have championed different aspects of education reform and you can research more on these.

By reforms in urban education, I think you mean the collaborative effort between schools and communities, and other CBOs working towards a certain goal. Over the century, much has been made in the areas of research and other collaborative efforts between schools, relating research output and social capital to create something harmonious. Maybe you should take a look at Communities and Schools by Mark Warren to learn more about this.

About conservative reforms of education, the issues of teachers unions and state vs. federal control of learning have been the most contentious between conservatives, progressives, and liberals. There has been a back and forth with these sides concerning how different aspects of education should be handled, such as Special Needs, state vs. federal funding and standardized testing among others. For example, conservatives advocate for a merit-based system and holding teachers accountable for outcomes. Unions are against this.

What about reform movements for special education? Have you heard about Project Muse? The book outlines special education in the 21st century and addresses the themes of disabilities and integration, federal legislation and other precedence involving disabilities, skills assessment and inclusivity for those with the most vital special needs. You can also check out this article on US Special Needs history by Gale Group.

Tad Fraziera year ago

Apart from Mann and Dewey, there are other education reform leaders in the United States like Kenneth Robinson who has stood for creativity in American schools; Joe Ferreira and Robert Hughes are among others. These two have laid emphasis on different aspects of the education system, ranging from technology to human-based learning to other more special aspects of education. The history of education in the US runs all the way from the colonial era to the era of slavery, racial and gender segregation in classrooms which was part of the inclusion movement to the special needs and No Child Left Behind era. Once you understand the entire history of American education, you’ll be able to contextualize different time periods and also understand the various laws that have been put in place at different times in history to cope with various needs. Maybe you should finish with the place of technology in modern education reform.


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