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PRESENT EDUCATIONAL CONDITION.
No brief summary can adequately set forth the actual condition and progress of education in the several States and Territories. There are too many important factors of influence to be thus summarily dealt with. The plan, however, has been to select from the State reports such utterances as would indicate the general condition, and then to cull such other salient features as would illustrate special movement and growth in the administration and development of the public school system.
Those States and Territories which are omitted in this account either failed to transinit, or to publish, reports for 1885–86.
ALABAMA. It is gratifying to report an increased efficiency in the administration of the publicschool system, which is growing in popularity and offering the benefits of education to a greater number of children than ever bofore in its history. There is not only an increase in the number of schools and in the regularity of attendance, but what is of far more importance, the schools are being conducted by better qualified teachers.
The three normal schools for the whites and the three for the colored race are in a flourishing condition. If there be those who doubt the propriety of the State maintaining normal schools such doubts would be removed by a visit to the several schools of the State. These schools, with the exception of the one at Florence, have been in operation but a few years, and some of them turned out their first graduatos last year, so that comparatively little has been accomplished toward-supplying the increased demand for trained teachers; but their influence has already been felt throughout the State by creating, on the part of patrons, a demand for better qualified teachers. There are tbousands of teachers in the public schools but poorly prepared for their responsible work, and hundreds so incompetent that the payment of school funds to them is but little better than a waste of public money; yet township superintendents are compelled to employ them, or do without schools. To train a sufficient number of teachers to meet the «lemand will require years, and the State should not grow impatient because this work cannot be done in a day.
The institutes held by county superintendents, and required by law, are creating an increased interest among the teachers. They are conducted to botter advantage, and more teachers attend and take an active part in them. Where they are held more frequently both the attendance and interest are increased, and consequently much more benefit is derived. In some counties, however, they are seldom held and are poorly attended, and do but little good, while in a fow counties they are altogether neglected. It seems to be the fault of the county suporintendents if these institutes are not held and made of interest to the teachers.
The following recommendations by the superintendent of education illustrates the drift of opinion in educational affairs: (1) A law authorizing counties, cities, towns, separate school districts, and townships to levy and collect a special tax for building school-houses or for other school purposes. (2) A law raising the standard of qualification for teachers. (3) A law repealing the local laws requiring the appointinent or election in certain counties of three trustees instead of one township superintendent. (4) A law providing for a commission on text-books to select a series of textbooks to be used in the public schools. (5) An increase of appropriation to meet the demand created by tho increase in school population.
The fact that no reports, except as to State appropriations, are made from cities and separate school districts tends to give the impression that the school system is an inefficient one. Such, however, is not the fact. The superintendent states that the public schools of the cities of Alabama will coinpare favorably with those of other States, and are improving each year.
A careful examination of the statistical part of the State report,' tho general summaries, and the reports mado by county examiners will convince the most skeptical tlat Arkansas is making rapid progress in her educational interests. There is a deeper conviction in the minds of the people that the massos cannot be oducatod 80 well and
This report was not received in season to incorporato tho returns for tho cárrent year in thio Stata tables.
153 508 500
A regular course of study for the country schools has recently received considerable attention and encouraging progress has been made. The reports show that there are now a large number of country schools in the State that have adopted a definite course of study. It has been over four years since the course published in the Daily Register was first recommended to district boards of ungraded schools, but little seems to have been done until last year. The results are, the pupils are better classified, a more uniform series of books are used, while more efficient work is performed by both teachers and pupils.
More interest than usual during the past year was manifested by the schools of the State in tree-planting. Many trees were planted through their instrumentality, not only on school grounds but upon other public grounds.
Never before in the history of the State has there been a greater supply of excellent teachers. There is a constant influx of teachers from all parts of the Union seeking positions in the schools. As many as fifty names at a time were enrolled of those seeking an opportunity to teach, and no situations were vacant.
1. (a) There are 1,631 schools, requiring 3,038 teachers; (b) of these, 561 are men and 2,477 are women; (c) four hundred beginners are required every year. If the same proportion as above prevails, 74 would be men and 326 would be women.
2. The following is a partial summary of teachers' wages for the past year: Average wages per month of male teachers.
$69 89 Average wages per month of female teachers
37 97 Number of teachers whose average wages were
$20 or less per month
634 3. In some districts schools are not in session longer than six months, in very many not longer than eight months. There is no certainty of regular employment. Frequently three teachers, one for each term, are employed in the six or eight months.
4. Employment is not regulated by ordinary business considerations. The following are some of the influences which determine selection of teachers:
(a) Relationship by birth or marriage, without regard to any other consideration. (b) Alliances in politics and church. (c) Misfortune, amiability, the desire to do something dignified, or to fill up unoccupied time.
(a) Locality; none out of town or district are considered. 5. Deducting those who have special training, 300 beginners, or one-tenth of all the teachers in the State, have not the exceptional ability which would enable them to command high wages. Indeed, very many from their youth and ignorance are positively certain not to have any teaching ability at all and cannot expeot to receive high wages.
6. There is a great scarcity of teachers who have education and training, and the demand for skillful teachers is far greater than can be met.
The Normal School has on its rolls the largest number of scholars reported since 1859. The coming year will also show the largest number of graduates in the history of the school.
The Normal School has given especial attention to training in elementary science, with a view to introducing this, or at least its methods, to the common schools. With this purpose elementary science is taught in the model schools and the graduates are thus able to give instruction to children in this important field.
The system of normal training now comprises a large Kindergarten, four school rooms on the Normal School premises, and five rooms in adjoining towns. Three of these rooms contain pupils of the highest grammar grades, and in the others are children of primary and intermediate grades. The training, therefore, covers all the grades of teaching below the high school.
In the three years past the Normal School has been largely instrumental in bringing to the notice of teachers throughout the State :
(1) The value of Kindergarten ideas and occupations.
(2) The value of elementary instruction in science and the possibility of carrying out such instruction in the common schools.
(3) An entirely new and now almost universally approved plan for mental work in common and decimal fractions.
(4) A better and easier way to teach penmanship:
(6) A systematic and legitimate use of occupations, or busy work bearing upon every part of primary work.