In 1635, a handful of students first met in the private home of a headmaster in the fledgling city of Boston to form Boston Latin school. It was the very first public school opened in America, and today it marks its 369th birthday. (Pretty cool that it shares a birthday with Shakespeare!)
Boston Latin's doors are still open, serving about 2,400 students. Its list of alumni is notable, from John Hancock to Leonard Bernstein (fun fact: Ben Frankling is one of its famous dropouts!), and Scholastic proud to work with them through our classroom magazines and Reading Clubs.
My entire education has been courtesy of public schools, from the tiny Beach Haven Elementary School in Beach Haven, New Jersey (where there were nine students in my grade), through my high school and college. These days, in addition to working at Scholastic, I teach at New York University, a private institution, but I'll always be a proponent of public education and the crucial role it plays in shaping our nation.
Today, there are 78 million children and adults enrolled in schools throughout the country — from nursery school to college — comprising 26.4% of the entire population age 3 and older. (Source) They're being educated in nearly 99,000 public schools. For more reading about public schools, check out the National Center for Education Statistics.