Public schools were gradually introduced into the United States during the course of the 19th Century. The first state to issue a compulsory education law was Massachusetts, in 1789, but not until 1852 did the state establish a "true comprehensive statewide, modern system of compulsory schooling."
Prior to the introduction of public schools, many children were educated in private schools or in the home. During this period illiteracy was common and many children were never properly educated. It was common for literate parents to use books dedicated to educating children such as Fireside Education, Griswold, 1828, Warren Burton's Helps to Education in the Homes of Our Country, 1863, and the popular McGuffey Readers, sometimes bolstered by local or itinerant teachers, as means and opportunity allowed. In contrast, Raymond Moore asserted that the United States was at the height of its national literacy under this informal system of tutelage.
After the establishment of the Massachusetts system, other states and localities gradually began to provide public schools and to make attendance mandatory. In 1912 A.A. Berle of Tufts University, (not to be confused with the Adolf Berle who was a delegate to the Paris Peace Conference) asserted in his book The School in Your Home that the previous 20 years of mass education had been a failure and that he had been asked by hundreds of parents how they could teach their children at home.