« AnteriorContinuar »
and prudent business management, progressive and well educated teachers, have pushed them
into a high and fortunate position. They cannot be said to represent the whole. There is overy gradation of the scale, every degree of effort and success, down to those who have lost hope and purpose under the belief that nothing can be done in respect of our educational system and practice.
These statements, it will be seen, cover experiences in different sections. It is certainly no small argument in favor of county superintendercy, or its equivalent, that it should be so generally advocater by those familiar with the status of elementary schools as exhibited throughout entire States.
UNION OF DISTRICTS AND THE TOWNSHIP SYSTEM. The efficiency of the country schools has been greatly promoted in a number of counties by the union of districts. In place of the wasteful division of school funds among several small districts for the support of schools numbering from two to twenty pupils, the funds have been combined and union schools formed or a central school established for the older pupils and a few primary schools conveniently placed for the younger pupils.
In a number of States such a union of districts may be accomplished with little or no special legislation; in others, districts that are desirous of adopting this course are prevented by the constitutional requirement that laws regulating the organization of common schools must be uniform throughout the State. So many advantages result from the measure where it is practicable that it seems important to provide all legal helps to its adoption.
The experience of the country showing the advantages of the township system over the district system has been constantly noted in these reports. The movement in favor of the former is extending. The passage of the law abolishing the district system in Massachusetts was mentioned in my last report. Mr. Patterson, of New Hampshire, observes that several towns have adopted the town system, and, so far as he knows, are pleased with the change, and adds:
It will readily be seen that the subdivision or district plan defeats measurably the very end for which public schools are established, as it fails to diffuse with an equable hand that intelligence which is essential to the safety and highest prosperity of the republic. It gives to the minority of the children in villages and cities extraordinary opportunities, and very ordinary ones to the majority scattered over the country towns. It gives to the children of non-taxpaying foreigners concentrated in large places privileges which it withholds from the children of taxpaying natives in the rural districts. It gives to the child of the man who pays a heavy tax in a small district less schooling than to the child of the man who only pays a poll tax in a large one. It renders it impossible for a poor man, as the law stands, to live in a district with less than 12 weeks of schooling, if he wishes his children to aid in the support of the family by work in a factory.
corRSES OF STUDY AND CLASSIFICATION IN UNGRADED SCHOOLS.
By means of a definite course of study and a fixed program for each day's exercises the work of the ungraded schools is brought into the same systematic, progres. sive order as that of the graded schools. When thus regulated, the needs and possibilities of the school are brought to light and it becomes comparatively easy to show what division of the work is desirable. Already this first step in classification has led in several places to the formation of primary and intermediate classes under separate teachers. In California the school law makes it the duty of each county board of education to draft a course of study for country schools, which teachers are compelled to follow. In this State, as also in Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and New Jersey, progress in grading the country schools or regulating their work in accordance with a fixed program is particularly noticeable.
As instruction becomes thus systematic there arises a demand for examinations, In a number of counties in different States not only are periodical examinations employed, but a certificate or diploma is awarded to those who successfully complete the prescribed course of stndy.
Hon. F. R. Brace, superintendent of schools, Camden County, New Jersey, gives the following report of results under this system:
The work of the past year has generally been satisfactory: In 6 districts pupils passed in the advance course of study; in 14, the examination for first grade was passed ; in 24, the examination for second grade; and in 31, the examination for third grade. In only 2 districts was there an entire failure to pass in some one of the grades, This is a great advance on former years.
The exercises connected with the giving of the diplomas and certificates in the different districts were largely attended by parents and friends.
According to scholastic merit, 8 districts are third grade against 13 last year, 12 second grade against 13 last year, and 20 are first grade against 16 last year. It will be seen that there has been quite an advance during the year. This is due to the course of study and the granting of certificates and diplomas.
Hon. Robert Graham, State superintendent, Wisconsin, has published an outline scheme for the examination of pupils who have completed the course of study prescribed for nagraded schools, to meet an urgent demand from parts of the State where the graded course has been successfully introduced. In general, county and State superintendents are very active in promoting this part of the work.
The examinations conducted in Massachusetts by the agents of the State board of education have done much to improve the schools and the reports of the same are full of helpful suggestions.
The methods and results of the examination in language as conducted in 1883 by Mr. George H. Martin are especially worthy of attention. They show very plainly that teachers can best prepare their classes for the ordeal of examination (which, say what we may, is an ever present end) by employing those better methods that are DOW so urgently insisted upon. Mr. Martin observes :
In language, I asked the children in grammar and intermediate schools above nine years of age to write the following sentence : "Many people buy their meat, I think, at Mr. Brown's grocery. Can they buy potatoes there?” This tested their power to spell simple words, to punctuate, and to use capital letters. About three thousand one hundred papers were examined and the result in each school determined on the basis of twenty possible errors, ten in spelling and five each in punctuation and the use of capitals.
He then proceeds to summarize the results, referring to the towns as A, B, C, D, &c.
(1) The correct use of punctuation marks and possessive forms can only be learned by practice in sentence writing, while spelling may be learned in other ways. The range of resnlts in punctnation is from 31 to 60 and in the use of possessive forms from 22 to 67, while the range in spelling is only from 68 to 90.
(2) The benefit of early work in sentence writing is strikingly shown by comparing the results in the intermediate schools of two towns. In A the possessive percentage reaches 57 in the intermediate schools. This is secured before there has been any teaching of grammar. In E, where the language work has been largely subordinated to technical grammar, the possessive percentage in the intermediate schools reaches 27. Stating it in anoiber form, the ratio of children in A at the age of eleven and a half years who write the possessive forms correctly is more than double the ratio of children in E at the age of nearly twelve years. Indeed, the children in the intermediate schools of A at the age of eleven and a half years reach a higher per cent. (57) than all the children in E at the age of thirteen (51).
(3) In the towns where the committees have insisted most strongly upon technical grammar the children show the least ability to use the proper grammatical form in writing.
(4) Better results may be expected from graded schools than from mixed schools. A, C, D, E, F, and G are large towns, with most of the children in graded schools. In B, H, and I are many small
mixed schools. Yet one mixed school in A reached 83 per sent.
(5) If the school committees want good results in this line of work they can havo them. The schools in D, E, F, and G are similar in the kind of pupils, in grading, in pay of teachers, and in supervision by committees. D has recently introduced into its primary sehools improved methods of language work. The effect is seen in an increased percentage of correct results. B has many mixed schools, and, on the whole, its schools are not as good as those in some of the other towns, but its committee have during the last year introduced sentence writing into the intermediate schools, and have followed it up with a good deal of energy. The effect is seen in making the town second in the list. C has made a specialty of composition writing in all the grades, and, though the average age of the classes examined is much less than in the other towns, its relative ravk is high.
The best results are due to a combination of causes. A, which stands highest in the list, has a comparatively fixed population, bas never had the district system, bas for thirty years welcomed normal teachers, pays the best salaries in the county, and for several years has employed superintendents who have been enthusiastic in introducing improved methods of primary work. I, which is lowest on the list, has a large floating population, has chiefly mixed schools, employs few normal teachers, and pays low wages. The schools have little supervision and are using old methods almost exclusively. The difference between these towns is well shown by the fact that in I less than 14 per cent. of the pupils wrote the sentence without mistake, while in A 12 per cent. thus wrote it.
Several causes havo combined to stimulate to increased work in language teaching. One is the publication of the results of the examinations made by Mr. Walton, an agent of the board, in Norfolk and Bristol Counties, by which public attention was called to existing defects. Another is the work that bas been done for several years in the normal schools and in the teachers' institutes held by the board in different parts of the State. A third is the liberal advertising of the schools of Quincy, where the mothods presented and advocated in the institutes and normal schools, and already in general use in other cities and schools, were put into practice and held conspicuously before the public. The public hastened to name them "the Quincy methods," as America was called after him who advertised it rather than after him who found it. But this was of little consequence as long as committees and teachers, from notual observation, became convinced of the value of the work and took it up in their own schools. My examinations show that the towns which have adopted these methods most cordially and have applied them most judiciously have the best schools.
Grading in the country schools leads very naturally to provision for branches a littlo in advance of those that the school laws mako obligatory, prevents the early withdrawal of pupils, and increases the number who advance to the high school. It appears also upon a careful examination of school finances that grading is an economical provision. For instance, in Illinois it has been ascertained that the cost of tuition per pupil in average attendance is, for graded schools, $11.37; for ungraded, $11.483. At the same time the salaries for teachers of ungraded schools are much lower than for teachers of graded schools, the average being for male teachers $86.80 in the gradod, as against $40.95 in the upgraded schools, and for female teachers, $11.HH, as against $31.21.
The following statement is from the report of the Connecticut board of education for 18H4;
The inoney now expended for schools in this State, when divided by the total number of children in attendance, is equal to the cost per head of educating the children of New Haven, about $22 per head. The cost of educat ng the children in the 158 districts whicli have less than eight scholars in attendance during the year was $30 per head. Now, if we compare the educational chances of a child who is one of the eight woholars in a remote wayside school-house with the educational chances of a child in one of the New Haven public schools, and note that the cost of educating the latter is only the average cost of education over the whole State, we certainly Now that there is a grand chance for intelligent effort to so organize the schools as to levelop the school training while preserving the average cost. We may go further and way that there is a duty here which those in charge of the matter cannot avoid. Momn of those who are best fitted to form an opinion on the subject affirm that if the schools of the towns can be consolidated the standard of instruction can be raised as htuell as that in the best city schools, and at no greater expense than now. The board hopes to bring this matter to public attention, to promote discussion of it, and to induce the towns and districts to enter voluntarily upon the experiment.
Mon, Herschel R. Gass, superintendent of public instruction, Michigan, calls attention to the same nuljeet as follows:
With an impartial, ethicient board of education to take charge of all the schools in the township, the districts would be arranged and school sites would be located with A view to attording the best advantages possible to those attending school. Snch a board would be unintuenced by the local prejudices that are so frequently manifested in the manngement of the district schools. They would have control of all the schools in their jurisdiction and would be responsible for their success or failure. The burden of school tax would be equitably distributed throughout the township and euch distriot would receive more nearly an eqnal portion of all the pupils en
rolled. Better houses would be erected and a more competent class of teachers would be employed, since po local penny policy would dictaie in these matters. This does not imply an extravagant expenditure of school moneys or even an increase in the cost of schools. In fact, I think it can be shown that this plan would be the most economical. As evidence of this I would call attention to the following facts:
In Oakland County, in the year 1882–83, were taught 14 schools, in which the number of pupils enrolled ranged from 4 to 12. The whole number of resident pupils attending these schools was one hundred and six. An average of six months' school was taught in each district during the year at a cost of $16.50 per month. Each school averaged 7.5 scholars, and it cost $2.10 a month to instruct each pupil, or at the rate of $21 per year. Twenty-one different teachers were employed in these 14 schools during this period, and the average length of time each taught was four months. The smallest number enrolled in any of these schools was 4 ; 3 of these 4 were non-resident pupils, and for instructing one scholar three montlis it cost the district $60. In the same county there were 33 schools that enrolled from 12 to 20 scholars each. There was an average of 16.6 pupils in each school. Fifty-two teachers were employed in these schools, and an average of five months was taught by each.
In Washtonaw County 6 schools were taught, with an average attendance of 9.6 pupils. The average cost per month for teaching each pupil was $2. Twelve teachers were employed, and they taught an average of 3.6 months each.
No account has been taken of the incidental expenses incurred in these schools. The cost of instruction alone is nearly twice as much per pupil as it averages in all the graded schools of the State, including high school instruction. This condition of things is not peculiar to the counties mentioned. A similar showing could be made from nearly every county in the State. This exhibit indicates that our district system is not the most economical in the expenditure of labor or the disbursement of money.
NEEDS OF SPARSELY SETTLED DISTRICTS. There are many sections of the country in which, on account of the sparse popula. tion or natural barriers, districts cannot combine their resources, although the individual districts are not able to maintain efficient schools. How the school children of these localities can be properly cared for is a serious question. It is quite evident that the funds available for schools in such cases must be increased or temporary expedients- as, for instance, house to house instruction – be employed. All things considered, it would seem better for the State or the General Government to extend the needed aid and support the work upon a basis that is likely to be permanent. The views expressed by Hon. Neil Gilmour, superintendent of public instruction, New York, with reference to the needs of such districts in his own State, are applicable to almost every State in the Union:
I have heretofore called the attention of the legislature to the fact that we have many districts in which the assessed valuation of property does not exceed $5,000, and many more in which such valuation is not more than $10,000. Such districts cannot, without overburdening themselves by taxation, employ as the teachers of their schools persons who have been thoroughly trained or who have had experience in the profession. And yet it seems necessary that such districts should exist, for, if they were to be wiped out through consolidation with other districts or otherwise, many children would be deprived of even the meagre school privileges they now possess, by reason of the remoteness of their residence from the nearest school. So, under present laws, the class of districts described will continue to exist, will be served by cheap and inefficient teachers, and will be no credit, but rather a reproach, to our school system. There is a remedy for this condition of affairs, and it is within the power of the legislature to apply it. The department of public instruction is really powerless in the matter. The superintendent may, by causing stringent examinations of applicants for teachers' certiticates to be made and by directing that none but those who pass such examinations satisfactorily be licensed to teach, raise the standard of qualification, but he cannot compel the teachers who pass the examination to accept starvation wages for the purpose of instructing children in a weak district, por can be compel the officers or inhabitants of such a district to employ a teacher upon wages which would afford adequate compensation for time and money expended by the teacher in acquiring skill in the profession. Enough skilful and competent teachers can be obtained to supply all the schools in the State, to the great advantage of those who attend them, but, if this policy is to be pursued, the State tax for the support of schools must be largely increased and the laws regulating the distribution of school moneys so changed as to give to the State superintendent and the school commissioners in the several counties greater discretionary powers than they now possess. The schools can be made good; those in the rural districts can be made to rival those in cities and villages; but this can be accomplished only by the expenditure of much more money than is now annually appropriinted by the legislature for educational purposes.
The efforts made within the last few years to improve the teaching force of the country schools have had some degree of success. It is now required in all the States that candidates for the service shall pass the examination for a teacher's certificate or present the diploma of a normal school. It remains to raise the standard fixed for the lowest certificate (which represents virtually the average qualification of the teachers), to remove the examination from local and partisan influences, and to offer fair wages for competent teachers. In a few localities this has been done, but, as a rule, the tests of qualification, the modes of appointment, and the inducements offered competent teachers to remain in the work are not such as sbould satisfy an intelligent people. The most hopeful indication in the matter is the very general effort made by school officers to arrive at an understanding of the exact status of the teaching force in the several States. Since the improvement of the service rests wholly with the people, every means should be employed to get the facts thus brought to light before their attention. The following information presents the results of recent inquiries into this subject in the States specified :
In Kansas there is a steady increase in the number of teachers' certificates granted above the third or lowest grade.
Hon. E. A. Apgar, State superintendent of public instruction, New Jersey, in his report for 1883, says:
The total number of State certificates hield is 296, of which 113 are of the first grade, 135 of the second, and 48 of the third. This is a decrease of 1 first grade, an increase of 16 second grade, and an increase of 8 third grade – a total increase of 23 State certificates. The total number of county certificates is 1,950, of which 411 are of the first grade, 488 of the second grade, and 1,051 of the third grade, being the same number of first grade, au increase of 65 second grade, and a decrease of 96 third grade -- a total decrease of 31. The total number of city certificates is 1,245, of which 653 are of the first grade, 371 of the second grade, and 221 of the third grade, being an increase of 6 first grade, an increase of 33 second grade, and a decrease of 22 third grade - a total increase of 31. Thirty-three teachers are without certificates, an increase of 3. Seven teachers hold special certificates, an increase of 5. Of these, 5 are in Hudson County, 1 in Monmouth, and 1 in Union. Three per cent of the total number held are first grade State, the same as last year; 4 per cent. are second grade State, an increase of 1 per cent.; 1 per cent. are third grade State, the same as last year; 12 per cent. are first grade county, an increase of 1 per cent. ; 14 per cent. are second grade county, an increase of 1 per cent. ; 30 per cent. are third grado county, a decrease of 3 per cent.; 19 per cent. are first grade city, the same as last year; 11 per cent. are second grade city, an increase of 1 per cent.; 6 per cent. are third grade city, a decrease of 1 per cent.
The following statement shows the results of inquiries into the status of the teaching force of Rhode Island, as given in the report for that State for 1883: Number educated at colleges or universities...
46 Decrease..... Per cent, to whole number of different teachers
.4 of 1 per cent. Number educated at academies or high schools.
1 Per cent. to whole number of different teachers Decrease...
.6 of 1 per cent. Number educated at normal schools
21 Per cent. to whole number of different teachers.
1.5 Number educated at common schools
3 Per cent. to whole number of different teachers
.5 of 1 per cent. Number reported as beginners
1 Per cent. to whole number of different teachers
......1 of 1 per cent.