Education Reform in 1800s

During the years after the American Revolution until about 1840, education in America was rapidly evolving. Often called “The Common School Period” it was also referred to as the era of the “District School”. What was happening in Massachusetts was also taking place in neighboring states where education went from being almost totally private to being available to the common masses, regardless of religion or economic status.

Advocates worked to establish a free elementary education system financed with public funds. Educators were held accountable to local school boards elected by their community. Like today, voters in town meetings decided how much money should be spent for schools. Each district addressed how it should be distributed based upon number of families, numbers of school aged children or money received in taxes. Ultimately, each district was accountable to the State government.

Like the rest of Massachusetts, both Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard Schools were growing and changing during this period. Gender lines were no longer as rigid as boys and girls began attending school together.

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Martha's Vineyard Museum