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Henry Chauncey

An American Life


Norbert Elliot

A leader in twentieth-century education, Henry Chauncey (1905–2002) introduced large-scale assessment into the lives of individual Americans. This first full-length educational biography examines Chauncey’s education at Groton School, Ohio State University, and Harvard College, his position as a teacher at William Penn Charter School, and his role as founding president of the Educational Testing Service. Documenting a career extending from the Great Depression through the end of the Cold War, this book provides an interpretative history of educational measurement through the careers of Chauncey and his contemporaries. As researcher, administrator, and writer, Chauncey dealt with topics central to the history of schools and schooling: the role of accountability in education; the value of individual difference; the identification of talent; the necessity of international perspectives; the resonance between technology and learning; and the impulse for social justice. This biography provides insight into the multidisciplinary factors that shaped the social enterprise of American education.
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Chapter 3. Service, 1905 to 1927



SERVICE, 1905 TO 1927

In 1905 Brooklyn was already experiencing what America was yet to become: a site of breathless expansion and attendant complexity. In the 295 years since Henry Hudson’s Half Moon had engaged the Algonquians in lands “pleasant with Grasse and Flowers, and goodly Trees,” as the crew of the ship described Upper New York Bay, the fresh, green breast of the New World had all but vanished.1 Nature, F. Scott Fitzgerald had imaginatively written, that had once pandered in whispers to the last and greatest of all human dreams, receded. For a transitory enchanted moment, those sailors held their breath in the presence of the continent, compelled into an aesthetic contemplation they neither understood nor desired—face to face for the last time in history with something commensurate to their capacity for wonder.2 All that was now gone, and another world had taken its place.

By the time Merchant Chauncey had turned fifteen years old in Middletown, Brooklyn was on its way to becoming an urban community. New York City had surpassed Philadelphia as the nation’s metropolis in 1810, and the suburb expanded in similar fashion. By the mid-1820s, nearly nine hundred homes were constructed in Brooklyn; to serve the influx of diverse families, churches and schools sprung up to accommodate the immigrant population. Managed by a superintendent, a system of public school districts formed. By ← 87 | 88 → 1860, Brooklyn had become the third largest city in the nation. By...

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