Transition to Grading Schools
As our country transitioned from the one room schoolhouse to grading schools, it was assumed that all children of the same chronological age could learn the same materials at the same pace. Gone were the days of the dunce cap and the hickory stick. However, struggling students still existed and those who could not keep up with their peers left school and sought work.
There was however a man named Preston Search in Colorado who was ahead of his time. In early 1889, he worked to make it possible for students to work at their own pace without the fear of retention or failure. Search pushed his teachers to build an environment where students could be successful, each at their individual pace.
With the introduction of achievement tests by 1912, there was then evidence that the gaps in children's abilities were much greater than realized. As intelligence tests were also implemented, educators such as Frederic Burk and Mary Ward began a movement to make textbooks self-instructive so that students could progress at their own pace. In 1919 a member of Burk's staff was hired as the superintendent in a the Winnetka district, a Chicago suburb, and the teachers there worked diligently to fit a child's education to their maturity and readiness. By the mid twenties the "Winnetka Plan" and others like it spread and it began to look like schools would begin to fit their teaching to the students.
William H. Kilpatrick's Project Method derailed the "Winnetka Plan" and others like it; educators began to think the the individual work in Winnetka "divorced the mechanics of learning from motivating social experience." (Washburne, p 140) Schools went back to their former programs, widely ignoring the varying readiness levels of their students.