American Education Week will be celebrated Nov. 11 through Nov. 17. The event gives Americans an opportunity to celebrate public education and honor individuals who work to ensure every child receives a quality education. American Education Week began when representatives of the National Education Association (NEA) and the American Legion met in 1919 to seek ways to generate public support for education. At that time, 25 percent of the country's World War I draftees were illiterate. In 1921, the NEA Representative Assembly in Des Moines, Iowa, called for the designation of one week each year to spotlight education. The first observance of American Education Week occurred Dec. 4 through Dec. 10 in 1921, with the NEA and American Legion serving as event co-sponsors. Today, American Education Week is celebrated during the week prior to the week of Thanksgiving each year.
Efforts surrounding American Education Week brought about many positive changes for education in the United States. Some of those included:
* The Works Progress Administration, which was created by Congress in 1935, resulted in the development of hundreds of new school buildings.
* The GI Bill, enacted in 1944, helped 238,000 World War II veterans become teachers.
* A pension program for teachers was offered in every state in the country by 1945.
* The Truman Commission Report, issued in 1947, recommended sweeping changes in higher education, which doubled college enrollments.
* The National Defense Education Act, which Congress passed in 1958, increased funding for scientific research and science education.
* Project Head Start and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act began in 1965. During the same year, the Higher Education Act, which included the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), was introduced.
* The Bilingual Education Act, passed by Congress in 1968, set uniform standards for training American teachers.
* The U.S. Department of Education was created by Congress in 1980.
* NEA's Read Across America was initiated in 1998 to encourage adults to take active roles in reading to youngsters on a regular basis.
American education has come a long way over the last 91 years. Although a lot has changed, one thing remains constant. Education in our country continues to be dependent on thoughtful individuals who are committed to providing opportunities and inspiration for learning. American Education Week is a great time for parents to show appreciation to the educators in their children's lives. It's also a great time for our community to recognize the individuals who have taken on the task of educating the leaders of tomorrow.