Agricultural life was dominant and those skills were passed down from one generation to the next. The majority of Americans did not receive formal schooling. By 1870, Horace Mann's initiative to get all states to sponsor and create public schools had become a reality in nearly every city in the country. However, many rural communities still lacked proper schools. No formal curriculum existed that was shared. No network of teacher's certification existed either. There simply no universal standards of any kind. However, many schools were quite rigorous. Others, not so much. The understanding was that strong discipline was the key to success. In rural areas, students had work obligations at home that often prevented them from having anywhere near perfect attendance. School did not run in the summer for precisely this reason. Many students dropped out by the time they reached age 12 or 13, not because they disliked it, but simply because their families needed them on the farm or in the factory.
"The tenth Amendment was intended to confirm the understanding of hte people at the time the Constitution was adopted, that powers not granted to the United States were reserved to the States or to the people. It added nothing to the instrument as originally ratified," - United States v. Sprague, 282 U.S. 716. 733 (1931)
In the 1990's the issue of linking government funds for education to performance on standardized tests began to yield interest. Governors met to create standards that were non-binding, yet most they agreed to implement them across states. Mandates enabled congress to "require" certain subjects be taught in exchange for funding. Many states agreed to them in an effort to get much need dollars.
What wasn't being addressed was that the very notion of localism, of strict local control, was partially to blame. While desegregation had been legalized and enforced for some time, people still lived in very segregated communities based on race, religion, ethnicity, and perhaps most significantly, income.
Even in 2000, when George W. Bush ran for election, it was revealed that Bush owned a piece of property that had a now illegal restrictive covenant preventing minorities from at one point purchasing the land. This should not have been shocking since much land down south and out west had these clauses at one point. While de jure segregation no longer legal, people continue to engage in self segregation to a large degree. Even within urban centers, this exists. Hence, local schools reflect the populations they serve in the most practical sense. To this day, property taxes raised, for the most part, make up the majority of funds for district budgets. Hence, there is great discrepancy financially among districts on spending per student, buildings, staff, and overall infrastructure.