Publication Date

Spring 2017

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)




Emily Slusser

Subject Areas

Educational leadership;Education history;Education policy


Components of what has been historically referred to as progressive education have been shown to increase both student achievement and motivation. These historically termed ‘progressive’ approaches are now being reintroduced as systemic and innovative practices in the post No Child Left Behind (NCLB) era of education reform. While progressive education has often been criticized for appealing primarily to the white-middle class, and for an apparent lack of rigor, current research is beginning to tell a different story. This dissertation will summarize the evolution of the Progressive Movement from the late 1800s until today, describe the impacts of a more standardized approach to education, and debunk some long-standing misconceptions about progressive education. This case study, conducted in a Northern California public elementary school district, includes publicly available secondary data, surveys and 1:1 interviews. Results show that educators are moving toward a more balanced pedagogical approach but implementation remains a challenge due to inadequate systems and structures. Educators and administrative personnel are encouraged to access resources that provide insight into systemic implementation so as to improve learning outcomes for all students.