Although there is some dispute as to when the first normal school was opened in the United States as several private institutions for training teachers for specific private institutions were opened in in the early 1800s, the first such school to be opened to the general public was founded in Concord, Vermont, by Samuel Read Hall in 1823. Hall was also instrumental in founding the American Institute of Instruction in 1829, the oldest educational association in the U.S. In 1830, he accepted the invitation to lead the newly formed English Academy & Teachers Seminary, part of Phillips Academy at Andover, Massachusetts., and closed his school in Concord.
The first public normal school in the United States was founded in Lexington, Massachusetts, in 1839. The school was the innovation of Horace Mann, who, as the first secretary of the newly created Board of Education in Massachusetts, Horace Mann instituted school reforms. Cyrus Peirce was its first principal.
The experimental normal school in Lexington, which was to evolve into today's Framingham State University, began on a modest note with only three students, but it had grown to 42 by July 1842, when ill health forced Peirce to resign his position there and return to Nantucket. By 1844 the school had moved to West Newton and Peirce was persuaded to return for another term in July 1844. He served until May 1849, when ill health again forced him to resign. While at the school, he closed each class with the call for them to "Live to the Truth". His words are the motto of today's Framingham State University, which has acknowledged him as its first president.
In an 1841 letter to Henry Barnard where he described his work in the Lexington Normal School, Peirce wrote:
You ask for a full account of my manner of instruction in the art of Teaching. This, it is not easy to give. From what I say, you may get some idea of what I attempt; and of the manner of it. Two things I have aimed at, especially in this school. 1. To teach thoroughly the principles of the several branches studied, so that the pupils may have a clear and full understanding of them. 2nd, to teach the pupils by my own example, as well as by precepts, the best way of teaching the same things effectually to others. I have four different methods of recitation. 1st, by question and answer; 2nd, by conversation; 3rd, by calling on one, two, three, more or less, to give an analysis of the whole subject contained in the lesson, and 4th, by requiring written analyses in which the ideas of the author are stated in the language of the pupil. I do not mean that these are all practised at the same exercise. The students understand that, at all the recitations, they are at perfect liberty to suggest queries, doubts, opinions.
A second normal school was opened in September 1839 in West Barre (the school later moved to Westfield) followed by Bridgewater State College the next year. Growth forced the first normal school's relocation to West Newton in 1843, followed in 1853 by a move to the present site on Bare Hill in Framingham.
In 1922, the Framingham Normal School granted its first Bachelor of Science in Education degrees in conjunction with a four-year study program. Ten years later, with degreed teachers becoming the norm, the normal schools were renamed State Teachers Colleges.