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Twentieth-Century American Education Reform in the Global Context

Peabody Journal of Education: Issues of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations, Vol. 87, No. 4

Jennifer DeBoer, Massachusetts Institute of Technology


As detailed in the articles throughout this issue, the U.S. education system experienced a number of structural developments throughout the 20th century. These changes served to shift the landscape of decision-making authority in multiple areas of primary and secondary schooling. This article provides an international perspective on the changes undergone by the American system, painting a broad picture of where the trends in the United States’ educational system fit within changes worldwide. To best understand the possible implications of changes in the United States, I describe trends in educational centralization and decentralization in other nations, placing the American changes in a broader context shedding light on where education in the United States could be headed.


Jennifer DeBoer is a PhD candidate and IES pre-doctoral fellow in International Education Policy at Peabody College, Vanderbilt University. She completed her bachelor’s degrees in Mechanical Engineering and Foreign Languages from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2005. Her research interests include technology use in education and the training of engineers, focusing on poverty alleviation.