Josephine Corliss Preston - The State of State Education


Josephine Corliss Preston - The State of State Education



Washington State Library, Office of the Secretary of State



Grade Levels


In this focused inquiry, students investigate the question Has education changed in 100 years?

Students engage in an analysis of 8 articles from the 1910s about the challenges of education under the leadership of Washington state’s first statewide elected female official: Josephine Corliss Preston.

Lesson Objectives

  • Assess change over time in issues faced by the public education system.
  • Analyze primary sources to understand the issues faced by public education in the 1910s.


Washington State Social Studies Standards:
  • H4.6-8.2.  Analyze how a historical event in Washington state history helps us to understand contemporary issues and events.
  • C2.6-8. 4.  Use knowledge of the function of government to analyze and address a political issue.


Focused Inquiry

Staging the Question

Compelling Question:  Has education changed in 100 years?

Formative Performance Task

Supporting Question:  How are the challenges we face in education today similar or different than the challenges faced by WA schools when Josephine Corliss Preston became the state’s first female statewide elected official?

Eight groups of four will analyze issues of education in WA when Preston was Superintendent of Public Instruction.

  • Each group gets a newspaper clipping from Josephine’s scrapbook.
  • Students read the article together and identify what education issues were faced at the time.
  • Each group should report out the gist of their article and what issues it identified.
  • The teacher or a student recorder should keep a running list in a visible place.
  • After all groups report out, students should reflect on 3 or more issues from the 1910s and how they are similar or different from issues in education that matter to them today.

Taking Informed Action

Argument:  Agree or disagree with the statement ‘Education today faces the same basic challenges it did when Josephine Corliss Smith was Superintendent’ and give evidence for your position.

During the next legislative session in WA state, go to the Washington State Legislature’s Bills & Initiatives By Topic page: [note the year in the URL; change as necessary to keep link updated] and type in education. Scan through the list of bills being considered by the legislature and pick one to learn more about. Share with the class what you learn.

Josephine Corliss Preston Lesson Plan (pdf)
Josephine Corliss Preston Text Set (pdf)