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As the new training school was developing at ISNS, ideas about the structure and function of schooling were emerging that would have an enormous impact on its future and that of education across the nation for decades to come. The common schools movement of the mid and late nineteenth century, while by no means accomplishing all that its advocates had envisioned, had begun preparing a broad foundation on which subsequent educators could build. The closing years of the century witnessed the dawn of a complex adjustment to accelerating change that would reach its zenith in the early decades of the twentieth century. An important dimension of this ferment of reform known as progressivism was an emphasis on the need for relevant and efficient public education. 

The intellectual roots of progressive education are many and varied as are the innumerable and sometimes contradictory ways in which it began to transform schooling in the early twentieth century United States, but a thorough delineation of its origins and impact transcend the scope of this essay. Suffice it to say that one current of progressive reform, influenced by industrial era ideas about efficiency, economy, and scientific management, resulted in such developments as the proliferation of an administrative bureaucracy, consolidation of public schools, an emphasis on instructional specialization, standardization of educational expectations, and emergence of accreditation agencies to evaluate practices and enforce standards. Another not wholly compatible and sometimes controversial current of reform shaped, in part, by the philosophical ideas of pragmatism and an emerging understanding of developmental psychology, and initially disseminated most notably though not exclusively by John Dewey and the University of Chicago Laboratory School established in the mid-eighteen nineties, began to transform education at the level of the classroom. 

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