Education Policy: Research: Chronology:

Federal-State Education Policy Chronology

This summary lists key events and developments in the history of federal education policy.  You can view the complete version of this publication in PDF format.

1944 Servicemen's Adjustment Act (G.I. Bill) provides education to 7.8 million veterans (2.2 million to higher education), breaking the link between income and educational opportunity.


In 1940s, progressive educational philosophy, influenced by John Dewey, and New Deal liberalism predominant among educators, but new emphasis on science and technology emerges after 1957.
  Life Adjustment Movement, embraced by U.S. Office of Education. Calls for curriculum to educate all students to meet the problems of living, rather than separate curricula for college, vocations, general skills. This surge of progressivism fades by end of 1950s, opposed by academically oriented educators and policy makers.
  Interest in federal aid to education focuses on (1) unequal educational opportunity, (2) disparities between North and South, urban and rural, (3) inequalities between black and white segregated schools, (4) inadequate physical plants, (5) teacher shortages, and (6) outdated curriculum. But controversy over aid to sectarian schools, segregation, and local control prevent enactment of federal programs.
1947 Educational Testing Service (ETS) sets foundation for standardized testing as the basis for admission to higher education, favors academic learning over progressive goals.
1948 New York-Boards of cooperative educational services (BOCES) established to "get people working together across district lines" and provide shared educational services in rural areas.
1949 Anti-subversion laws passed by many states, including New York’s Feinberg Law, require loyalty oaths and aim to remove from schools employees accused of “treasonable or seditious” words or acts.
1953 Department of Health, Education and Welfare (HEW) established. Includes the U.S. Office of Education.
1954 Supreme Court, in Brown v. Board of Education, rules that segregation in public schools is unconstitutional. This case preceded by cases in Maryland, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Texas.
1957 Arkansas-Little Rock desegregation crisis forces first federal intervention to enforce Brown.

National Defense Education Act (NDEA), in response to Cold War and Sputnik, provides federal aid for science, math, foreign language, and guidance, and establishes forgivable loans for higher education costs for prospective elementary and secondary teachers. Reasserts emphasis on academic fundamentals.