This paper reexamines the analytic categories that American educational historians have used to describe progressive era reformers and their innovations. Using archival sources and other school district records, this essay analyzes the nature of school reform in three United States cities: Seattle, Washington, Oakland, California, and Denver, Colorado during the early decades of the twentieth century. The author argues that educational leaders in city school systems blended and combined practices that historians have tended to see as contradictory. These "district progressives" viewed many reforms of the era as compatible and intertwined for a variety of reasons: practitioners at the local level were more likely to see the movement for "progressive" education in a battle with older, nineteenth-century conceptions of education; district leaders, by necessity, developed distinct strategies for district-wide change, using their administrative leverage to foster instructional change; and some leaders, quite simply, found certain administrative reforms much easier to implement.
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