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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 6. Integration, 1958 to 1970




“The year 1957–1958 marks the end of one era and the beginning of another—for Educational Testing Service, for testing in general, and for education as a whole,” Chauncey wrote in his Annual Report to the Board of Trustees, 1957–1958.1 Recent events, foreign and domestic, were reshaping the world. Just off stage was the October 1957 launch of Sputnik. A satellite the size of a serving tray signaled the possibility of Soviet technological superiority (an uncomfortable possibility) and death from the skies (a terrifying truth). Because another metal object, the atomic bomb Little Boy, had been dropped on Hiroshima, the symbolic value of Sputnik to the United States could not be overestimated. A semiosis of associations—communism and democracy, threat and perseverance, sin and retribution—found their home in the National Defense Education Act of 1958 and the challenges presented by the Soviet educational system. Chauncey focused his annual report on both.

“Congress,” he wrote, “for the first time passed a bill aimed at strengthening all levels of education in a variety of ways.”2 In the conversational and allusive style in which he wrote each of his annual reports, Chauncey applauded the National Defense Education Act of 1958. Signed into law on September 2, federal policy was intended “to strengthen the national defense and to encourage and assist in the expansion and improvement of educational programs to meet critical national needs.” To stimulate postsecondary ← 231 | 232...

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