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The Importance of Being UrbanDesigning the Progressive School District, 1890-1940$
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David A. Gamson

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780226634548

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: January 2020

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226634685.001.0001

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Pioneering Practice in the Public Schools of Denver, Colorado

Pioneering Practice in the Public Schools of Denver, Colorado

(p.140) 4 Pioneering Practice in the Public Schools of Denver, Colorado
The Importance of Being Urban

David A. Gamson

University of Chicago Press

The unconventional approach that the Progressive Era Denver public schools took to including teachers in curriculum reform during the 1920s has led the city to be seen as an alternative to rigidly administered, top-down districts. Chapter 4 examines how Denver Superintendent Jesse Newlon (1920-27) and his successor, A. L. Threlkeld (1927-1937), crafted a district culture devoted to democratic teacher participation. Nevertheless, although Denver educators articulated a vision of democracy distinctly different than that voiced by Oakland leaders, they implemented practices that were remarkably similar, such as the use of intelligence tests to classify students. Threlkeld’s persistent pursuit of the logic of democratic engagement, however, ultimately led district administrators to question, even challenge, some of their previous assumptions about student ability and classification. Ultimately, Denver’s experience demonstrated the potential that district progressivism could hold for the realization of serious research, experimentation, and reform when carried out by committed professionals in a local urban school system.

Keywords:   Jesse Newlon, Teachers College (Columbia University), A.L. Threlkeld, teachers, curriculum revision, democratic education, intelligence testing, progressive education, democracy

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