The Origins of American High School

A brief lesson on how High School became what we know it as today

High School Football team in the 1940's

Photo Via under the Creative Commons License

High School Football team in the 1940's

The first public school in the United States was the Boston Latin School, founded in 1635. That school is still in existence today, and is ranked at 51 of the top 100 High Schools in the country.

In the 20th century many High Schools had an entrance examination, which only allowed roughly five percent of the population to attend secondary school. Most students were expected to go right to work as soon as Junior High ended. The aforementioned Boston Latin School still administers such an entrance exam.

During 1910 to 1940, High Schools grew at an exceptional rate. Many new schools were founded, and curriculum shifted its focus from college readiness, to teaching life skills. Soon after, free secondary education to those who finished all 12 years of required schooling became widespread. By the 1950’s, 80% of appropriately aged Americans were enrolled in High School.

Today, American public High Schools may not be as highly regarded as they were in the past. But that is more on the students than on the schools, as the culture in modern High Schools allows for the student to do as well, or as average as they like. The drive of the student determines success in a secondary education.

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