Americans are largely unaware that local school boards, as well as local superintendents and individual schools have been losing influence over education programs for some time to state and federal officials and other interests.. The reforms brought by the Progressive movement from 1900-1920 created control and trust of professional educators, and a politics preferred by pedagogues (Iannaccone, 1967). Certified School administrators once dominated education policy with little intrusion by federal or state authorities. Teachers were docile and not organized.
This paper begins with chronicling the loss of confidence in professional educators, and the consequent k-12 policy and politics that have reached beyond the classroom door to alter what students are taught. A companion paper by Will Doyle then analyses why no such comparable change has occurred in post secondary education, and what forces may cause major future reform in postsecondary education. To address these and other questions, it is helpful to understand historic turning points in U.S. k-12 school policy and governance, and to see how the evolution of a local control system resulted in today’s more centralized policies and reforms. However, k-12 policymaking is still fragmented among several levels of government, interest groups, and actors.