American Education in the 1970s

Milestones that made a difference:

Main Points about Education during the 1970s:

  • America was changing and there were many concerns.
  • Divorce rate rose and produced more single parents.
  • There were significantly more women in the workforce.
  • Unemployment skyrocketed as well as prices which caused less disposable income and therefore led to inadequate funding for many schools.


By either lack of opportunity or by choice, neighborhoods and schools were segregated. Schools with minorities lacked sufficient and up to date materials. This led to forced integration at the district level. School districts assigned students to schools and bused them there in proportions that would achieve integration. This was frustrating for many families and children due to the extended bus rides to further neighborhoods.
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Bilingual Education:

In 1971, Supreme Court ordered the joining of two schools in Texas, one primarily Spanish, and the other English. They found that language was a barrier for equal education, so all students were taught both Spanish and English. In 1974 the supreme court acknowledged the problems students with limited English faced, and schools were ordered to provide basic English classes for these children.

Gender Equality:

In 1972, Title IX or The Equal Opportunity In Education Act was passed, and banned discrimination based on on gender in all programs receiving federal funding. Any school, college, or program must be open to all. Discrimination had limited career options for women in the 1960s and 1970s. Prior to that time, nursing and teaching were the only professions most available to women. It was very uncommon for them to be in Law or Medicine. Women were paid 59 cents on a dollar that men earned. In 1978, more women were enrolled in college than men for the first time.

Children with Disabilities:

In 1975, Congress passed the Education for All Handicapped Children Act. It guaranteed free public education for children with disabilities. The education must be appropriate and placed in the least restrictive environments, and parents were asked to be involved in the decision making. Previously children with disabilities had been segregated in special classrooms.
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1970s Education timeline:

  • 1970 - Jean Piaget's book, The Science of Education, is published. His Learning Cycle model helps to popularize discovery-based teaching approaches, particularly in the sciences.
  • 1971 - In the case of Pennsylvania Association for Retarded Children (PARC) v. Pennsylvania, the federal court rules that students with mental disabilities are entitled to a free public education.
  • 1974 - The Equal Educational Opportunities Act is passed. It prohibits discrimination and requires schools to take action to overcome barriers which prevent equal protection. The legislation has been particularly important in protecting the rights of students with limited English proficiency.
  • 1975 - The Education of All Handicapped Children Act (PL 94-142) becomes federal law. It requires that a free, appropriate public education, suited to the student's individual needs, and offered in the least restrictive setting be provided for all "handicapped" children. States are given until 1978 (later extended to 1981) to fully implement the law.
  • 1975 - The National Association of Bilingual Education is founded.