All of the following is from David Labaree’s Someone Has to Fail which I am working through now. All emphasis is added.
Only in new England was there a systematic effort by colonial governments to establish schools for all (white) members of a community. Boston established a public Latin school in 1635, only fifteen years after the Mayflower, and Harvard College was chartered in 1636. In 1647, the Massachusetts Bay Colony passed a law requiring that towns of a certain size should establish a primary school and that larger towns should also establish a grammar school. Other colonies in New England gradually followed suit by requiring the public provision of schooling in local communities.
These efforts to provide education in the American colonies had a significant impact on the literacy of the population, especially in New England. […] male literacy in New England reached 60 percent in 1660, 70 percent in 1710, 85 percent in 1760, and 90 percent in 1790. In contrast, male literacy among non-slaves in other colonies remained constant at around 67 percent throughout the 1700s. This was slightly higher than estimates for male literacy in England during the same period, which hovered around 60 percent, but markedly lower than New England, which may have been the first region in the world to achieve something approaching universal literacy in its white male population. 
[…] the major factor that promoted schooling in New England during this period was the intensity of the community’s commitment to the Protestant religion, especially the Puritan version that characterized the original English immigrants to the region.
At the core of the Protestant faith —especially the Calvinist version— was the belief that worshipers had a direct connection to God, which, in contrast with the Catholic belief, was not mediated by the church and its priesthood. As a result, the faithful could not afford to be left illiterate, which would make them dependent on a literate clergy to interpret and transmit the gospel. Instead they needed direct access to the word of God in order to maintain their faith, and this required learning how to read. Therefore, at the heart of the push for schooling in colonial America was a profoundly conservative vision of education’s mission: to preserve piety and maintain the faith.
For all of the criticism that religion endures in some circles, it was directly responsible for the emphasis on education that set the stage for America to become a wealthy industrialized nation.