One thing that is lost in Scott's citation of plenty of evidence that "traditional" schooling has always been dominant in the US is the fact that at this moment we are well into a period of conservative, back-to-basics backlash. It is not just that things haven't been changing, in many ways they've been changing in the wrong direction. Significant large scale reform efforts in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and innumerable other schools and districts were smothered in their cradles as this period began. Certainly my personal experience was that the seventies were more progressive than subsequent decades.
See also Sylvia's comment.