What Students Knew and Were Able To Do: Two Centuries in Search of American Educational Standards

Project: Research project

Project Details


The goal of Dr. Gamson's project is to undertake an analytic history of how educational leaders in the United States have drafted and implemented educational standards over the past two centuries—focusing especially on successive efforts to create common, uniform academic learning expectations—and to illustrate how generations of educators have sought to specify, clarify, and at times intensify, what students were meant to know and be able to do. Although researchers usually situate the origin of the standards-based reform movement in the 1980s, there is a rich and surprising history waiting to be explored of how nineteenth- and twentieth-century educators articulated specifications about student proficiency. Through an examination of archival and primary source materials, Dr. Gamson's team will explore what children were expected to know at different points in our history and how policymakers connected that knowledge to instruction. In so doing, they will analyze the challenges educational leaders faced as they attempted to implement standards across states, districts, and schools that differentiated their curriculum to 'meet student needs' and in locations that had established traditions of autonomy and local control. The analysis will also explore the use of standards over time to provide equal educational opportunities to students across a range of backgrounds. ,

Effective start/end date1/1/16 → …


  • Spencer Foundation: $299,164.00


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