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Making the GradeThe Economic Evolution of American School Districts$
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William A. Fischel

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780226251301

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: February 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226251318.001.0001

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Explaining the School District Consolidation Movement

Explaining the School District Consolidation Movement

(p.67) Chapter Three Explaining the School District Consolidation Movement
Making the Grade

William A. Fischel

University of Chicago Press

This chapter uses land-value concerns and economic and technical change to explain the dramatic decline in the number of school districts between 1910 and 1970. Almost all the decline in district numbers to 1970 can be accounted for by the consolidation of rural, one-room school districts into larger districts that had multiroom buildings in which children were put on an age-graded track that led to high school. The twentieth-century decline in rural population, better roads and motor vehicles, and the demand for high school education contributed to the transformation of American education norms. As education moved toward age grading, it became important to coordinate the school experience from one place to another. This coordination came without much central direction. The political success of the age-graded model was because of the recognition by rural voters that their property values would be lowered if they did not get with the age-graded program. One-room, rural schools by 1900 attempted to adopt an age-graded system. This system did not work well in the one-room setting. One-room schools thus became obsolete. Attendance began to shrink because of declining rural population and because parents of ambitious students moved to age-graded districts. It accounted for almost all the decline in school district numbers from 1910 to 1970.

Keywords:   school districts, land values, economic change, education norms, America, rural voters

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