Early Years to Nineteenth Century
The Boston educational system began in 1635 when Boston’s citizens voted to establish the Boston Latin School. Boston Latin was a free Latin grammar school for boys and its existence marked the founding of America’s first public school system. Seven years later, the Massachusetts General Court passed an act requiring the elementary education of all children. This remarkable law marked the first instance of state-mandated universal education in the English speaking world. In 1789, a committee led by Samuel Adams presented a new school program that, among other changes, provided for the education of girls in public schools.
As the nineteenth century began, the school committee recognized the need to educate boys who were not preparing for college. In response, in 1821, they began English Classical School (later English High School). Three decades later, in 1852, the city established the High School for Girls, the country’s first public girls’ high school. Educational opportunities for girls continued to expand in 1877 when the School Committee received a petition that girls be allowed to attend Boston Latin School. In response, the committee founded the Girls Latin School, a college preparatory school for girls. During this period, the School Committee also established the Horace Mann School for the Deaf – the first public day school for deaf children. The city also began providing classes for mentally retarded children. In 1894, the city introduced the Department of School Health Services. One of the first School Health departments in the country, the department examined children to identify and prevent communicable diseases.