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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 4. Reorientation and Reorganization, 1928 to 1945




Chauncey was twenty-two years old when he came to Penn Charter in fall 1927. He taught a wide variety of classes, including English and mathematics, but he mostly taught history. During his second year, he served as the assistant to the head of the history department. Just before school opened, Chauncey had to take over a course in American history, a topic he had not studied at Harvard. Cramming late into the night for content, he was met in class with a very different student population than he experienced in the boarding schools of New England. At Groton, there was an established black mark system for all students in which infractions were tallied and retributions meted out; at Penn Charter teachers were on their own. Chauncey and Bill Saltonstall, his roommate from Harvard, were given a rough time. At Penn Charter, Chauncey learned his first lesson about discipline: Don’t try to be fair. If one person does something just a little over the line, another will do a little more, and the third person does something else. One cannot be punished without punishing the others, and punishment cannot be undertaken in droves. The solution? The first fellow who does something has to be slapped down hard, whether he deserves it or not. That takes care of the problem.1 ← 121 | 122 →

Coaching, where a limited group of boys gathered for a common purpose, was more controlled. When he...

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