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Report for 1896, Hon. E. B. Prettyman, secretary State board of education.
The subreports coming in from county examiners and the principals of State academics and schools receiving donations from the State all show gratifying improvement in education.
It appears that hostility to the public system, although continuing, is constantly diminishing, and is directed rather to individual things than to the whole. Attempts were made at the last legislature to have school commissioners elected by the people, instead of receiving their appointment from the governor. It is hardly probable that, if such a law had been passed, it would have failed to be speedily shown imprudent and impracticable and been repealed. In the meantime, however, much harm might have been done, which it would have taken several years to cure. As it is, the average among such examiners is acknowledged to be high. Among them are the most prudent, thoughtful men, who study the school problem with sincerest intent for whatever is best for the conduct and operation of the schools. If elections were held by the people, such men or a majority of them would refuse to run for offices, elections to which are to depend upon partisan machinations, with which they would shrink from entangling themselves, and they would be sought by a class whose eagerness to obtain them would be the more fiery according to their incapacity to the discharge of their functions.
Much felicitation is indulged on the passage of the free text-book law. It is claimed to have largely increased attendance and elevated the standard of education generally.
Among the many recommendations for the consideration of the committee on programme for the next session are the following:
Sufficient State funds to pay all teachers' salaries.
Salaries of all teachers throughout the State to be arranged between the State board of education and the city and county school boards.
County funds to pay strictly local expenses of schoolhouses, furniture, fuel, etc.; county supervision by school board.
Separation of the offices of State superintendent and principal of the normal school. Separation of the offices of county examiner and secretary and treasurer of the county boards.
Obligatory annual sessions of teachers' institutes and associations in all the counties of the State.
The consolidation of rural schools and the transportation of distant pupils at the public expense.
A number of well-considered suggestions occur in the last page of Mr. Prettyman's report in behalf of the State board, of which he is secretary, and at the same time ex officio State superintendent. He was one of the most earnest among the supporters of the free text-book system. He claims that the annual appropriation fixed by the last legislature of $150,000 has served already to increase attendance from 10 to 30 per cent. He urges, among other things, provisions for additional and higher grade of teachers' certificates; that is, high-school certificates. The appeal regarding the essential need of separating the two highly responsible positions, at present united in himself, is in the following words:
"It has been repeatedly urged that there should be a separation of the duties of the principal of the Stato normal school from those of the State superintendent of public instruction. It is manifest, in the present condition of the public-school system of the State, after the experience of thirty years, and considering its gradual but steady development, that one person can not perform the duties pertaining to the two positions named. . . . It is impossible for the normal school principal to give it proper attention and also attend a teachers' institute in each county in the State, visit the high schools, conduct the voluminous correspondence of the education department, prepare the annual State report, and perform the other duties now required by law. He is obliged continually to elect between conflicting duties. This is the only State in which such manifold duties are united in one office."
Report for 1894-95, Hon. Frank A. Hill, secretary of State board of education.
Comment is made in the beginning on the gradual assumption by the State of active control over the subject of State education. This has been done thus far gradually, because of the indisposition of many towns to part from the exercise of what they have been deeming vested rights. Yet the obvious advantage of having
superintendents who have been specially trained for their service has tended to overcome this reluctance. The board recommend that supervision be extended on geographical lines. For the formation of districts by town meetings they would Substitute school committees, who are in position to be better acquainted with the subject.
They argue, further, that since the establishment of the system of district superintendents they, the board, should be invested with the power of examining and issuing certificates, and that provision by law should be made for the additional force which such increased responsibility would make necessary.
The State has now ten normal schools, whose results have been highly valuable to general education. This is so apparent that the board insist that hereafter candidates who have not passed through those schools should be required at least to give evidence of proficiency corresponding with that of those who have.
The normal schools are declared to be advancing satisfactorily, each with its own peenliar distinctive features, which are owing to different individualities among teachers, individualities with which the board wisely deem it improper to interfere. All of them except two are coeducational, Framingham and Salem being for girls only. In each are declared to be teachers of much ability. This fact, as well as the constantly enhancing value of high-school education, is considered by the board as lessening the preference for private schools, yet shown by many parents.
The board intimate an intention to move for a compulsory law regarding desks, chairs, and other furniture.
In the matter of the normal art school the standard was raised in 1895, requiring candidates for entrance to have a high-school diploma or its equivalent. The diniculties arising from lack of opportunity for those fitting to be teachers to observe the drawing work done in the schools of Boston have been removed by permission received from the latter to observe and teach there.
It has become a matter of serious consideration as to whether those susceptible of considerable improvement in schools for defectives ought to be sent back home after attaining the degree of improvement possible or kept within the institutions. It has been found that in many cases snch return is not desirable on the score of what is best for the invalid, and they have been retained. But this course has served to overcrowd the schools and hinder the taking in of many to whom there is a crying need of being received. In view of the difficulty in drawing sharp lines between the most gifted of the feeble-minded and those least so among the normal, much painstaking and even much delicacy in dealing with the subject will be required. The board commends it to the legislature as one deserving of careful consideration and liberal expenditure of moneys in providing for whatever is decided to be practicable. School attendance for the year shows a large increase, 11,981 larger than that in the enrollment of children between 5 and 15. This increase is attributed to the large numbers outside of these ages who attend schools and to the growth of kindergartens and high schools.
In the matter of the comparative numbers of men and women teachers, the preponderance keeps with the latter. The men, however, are gaining somewhat, the present ratio being about 1 to 10. The secretary admits that the teaching force must be made up of women mostly, but contends that their preponderance has been too great. Referring to the year 1886, he says "while the number of men is 14 less than in that year, that of women is 2,371 greater."
The disparity between the wages of men and women is yet great. Yet the secretary regards it not as unreasonably so as it appears, and for this reason:
"It should not be forgotten, when we comment unfavorably upon this disparity, that the men almost invariably hold positions of directorship, or of superior responsibility, and that when women are put in any of these higher positions, as they sometimes are, their pay is not much, if at all, inferior to that of men. It is certainly far above the average paid to women. This is conspicuously true in those cases in which women serve as superintendents of schools, their pay being the same usually as that of men holding corresponding positions. On the other hand, if there is a class of positions that are commonly filled by women and that grade alike in pay, the salary of the man who is occasionally appointed to serve in this class is likely to follow that of the women in it. Here we have, as it were, exchange of positions-women taking their place among men and men taking their place among women-in which it appears that compensation rests more upon the popular estimate of the magnitude of the position filled than upon considerations of sex.
The secretary makes some very judicious remarks upon the tendency of methods which have been constantly improved upon to teach pupils other things besides knowledge of text-books, such as development of taste, exaltation of character, more just views of the purposes of life-in short, cultivation of all elements needed in the making of manhood and womanhood.
The constant advance in education and in the development of the State system in Massachusetts is very notable. Interesting is the following extract from the article headed "Schools and teachers" in the report for this year:
"It appears from the school returns of 1895-96 that there were in the State 9,153 public schools, taught by 12,275 teachers. Of this number, 4,540 received some training in the State normal schools, and 3,903 have completed the prescribed course of normal instruction. . . . As the schools of a country are inevitably what the teachers make them to be, reason, experience, and even public sentiment seem now in favor of limiting their selection and employment to those who by natural and acquired qualifications are specially prepared for their work. The State will soon be provided with normal schools, thoroughly organized, sufficient in number and conveniently located for the instruction of teachers required for the public schools. In the opinion of many prominent educators the time has come when school boards should be required to employ no other persons as instructors of their public schools than graduates of normal schools or those who have had an equivalent for teaching. If necessary, the small towns should receive special aid from the State to enable them to comply with this requirement."
In addition to the six already existing four others are in rapid process of establishment. In connection with these institutions it is intended to create what are termed practice schools, by which those expecting to become teachers may acquire some experience in that line before entering upon it.
A part of the educational system is a board of agents who, although without control over the management of schools, visit them, observing the condition of buildings, text-books, etc., state of school attendance, courses of studies, and afterwards report on these to higher officials. They also conduct teachers' institutes, and have been notably efficient in aid and encouragement of smaller towns to form themselves into districts for the employment of union school superintendents. Detailed reports of their work are appended.
Much stress is laid upon the value of school supervision and its extent in the State. The report says:
"Supervision has, by the voluntary action of the towns and cities, steadily won its way into public favor, until 259 towns, embracing 93 per cent of all the school children in the State, have their schools under the care of intelligent superintendents.
"There are now 94 towns not under supervision" says the report. "These are mostly small country towns, many of them heavily burdened with taxation for the support of schools and other town purposes, but especially needing the benefits which flow from skilled supervision. Some of these towns have voted in favor of uniting in a district for the employment of a superintendent, but are unable to effect such union by reason of their relations to other towns and cities. They may be nearly or quite surrounded by towns of too high a valuation to unite in a district entitled to State aid, or by towns now under supervision, or by those indifferent or averse to the plan."
Recommendation is made of such changes in the law as to render such supervision
The number of high schools has grown to 257, being 5 greater for the year. Education therein is provided for children from towns where high schools are not required by law. An act of the legislature provided for reimbursement of tuition to towns of less than $500,000 valuation. This will serve to bring secondary education within attainment of every child in the State.
The advantages in manual training, as the law makes no distinction in that respect between boys and girls, are now favorable to the former, some of the things taught being practicable for both, while others are not so, such as foundry, machine, and other such work.
An important feature in the system of education is the maintenance of evening schools, that are located mainly in manufacturing towns wherein children, because of employment, can not attend in the day. As many as 30,000 of these attend near 700 schools. Since 1886 every town of 50,000 inhabitants is bound to maintain an evening high school. The chief difficulty is irregularity of attendance, due mainly to being voluntary. It is not believed to be well to extend the compulsory law in the case. Some remedy it is hoped will come from reudering schoolrooms more attractive and placing the schools under the charge of especially skillful teachers. As many as 4,000 teachers attend teachers' institutes, seventeen of which were held in 1895, conducted by the secretary and State agents. They are regarded as institutes of great value.
Regarding provision for the blind, deaf, and feeble-minded, the following is somo of the language of the report:
"Massachusetts makes provision at her own expense for the care and education
of all her deaf mutes and deaf children without any limitation as to the age of such beneficiaries, and without regard to the wealth or poverty of their parents or guardians. All such pupils are sent to the American School at Hartford, Conn., the Clarke School at Northampton, or the Horace Mann School at Boston. The State also makes ample provision for the education and support of the blind at the Perkins Institution and Massachusetts School for the Blind at South Boston." This business is intrusted by the board to a committee of its own members, associated with whom is its secretary.
The subject of truancy, under direction of the legislature of 1895, has been under investigation of an expert examiner, and further amendments to the law in case are being considered.
The concluding words of the president of the State board are so thoughtful and pointed that we shall give them in full:
"In the judgment of experienced observers the public schools are in danger of being overcrowded with work. The number and character of the studies now introduced into courses of public instruction are such as to prevent the best work being done in any of them. Some of these studies heretofore supposed to be important, such as the language we speak and write, are in danger of being greatly neglected. It would be well for the public schools of the Commonwealth if a new State course of instruction, founded on recognized principles of education, could be made in accordance with the concurrent opinion of the ablest and most experienced educators. Such a course should be simple in requirements, and adapted to the nature of the growing child as he passes through the different stages of his natural development."
The secretary in his report discusses the fact that in many of the smaller towns the teachers are all women. Benign and indispensable as is the influence of women, yet it is regarded a misfortune when pupils at no stage come within that of men, and thus fail of acquiring certain degrees of robustness that only men are capable of imparting.
This report, after giving statement of the extremely liberal provision made by the State, discusses the much mooted question of the relations between State and local taxation. We give the following brief extract. Alluding to the former it says: "These measures have all proved helpful to the small towns, materially reducing great inequalities of school burdens, and making it possible for them to improve their schools. They have left untouched, however, many other excessive inequalities; nay, they have served to increase those inequalities somewhat, as when a town heavily burdened to support its own schools is not aided by the State, but nevertheless contributes its own share toward aiding other towns."
The report closes with this summary of recommendations:
(1) Universal and permanent supervision of the public schools; (2) professional training either in a normal school or in some equivalent way for all new teachers; (3) partial State participation in the support of all the public schools. Other recommendations are on truancy, more satisfactory definition of high schools, system of sabbatical years and summer scholarship for the refreshment and inspiration of normal school teachers, and additional general expert service.
BOSTON SCHOOL REPORT.
Report for 1893-94, Edwin P. Seaver, superintendent of public schools.
The tables show that the number of pupils belonging to the day schools have increased to 65,588, an average increase for the last five years of more than 1,000. The report, outside of the usual statistics, is occupied mainly with a discussion, extended, elaborate, and very acute, on secondary school studies, founded upon the "Report of the committee on secondary school studies appointed at a meeting of the National Educational Association, July 9, 1892, with the reports of the conferences arranged by this committee and held December 28-30, 1892,"
Regarding this report Superintendent Seaver says:
"Public high schools in particular have been distracted, and their courses of study have been wrecked by their striving to fulfill two separate purposes at the same time, namely, to give preparatory training for college, and to crown elementary education with a brief finishing course for practical life. The committee of ten have made recommendations which, if generally adopted, will unite these divergent purposes into one, and so give to the work of secondary schools throughout the country a desirable unity now wanting as well as enhanced strength and virtue. The deplorable gap which has long existed between the public high schools and colleges, in so far at least as the great majority of high-school pupils is concerned, will be closed up." The report, arguing that mental habits may begin to be formed anterior to 14 years, contend that elements of various studies heretofore reserved for high schools may well begin in lower.
ED 97. -82
The committee, with becoming reserve, do not ask assent to their entire report, recognizing that several of its findings may well be considered debatable. Yet it is with much confidence that a change of relative duration in the high schools and those below is recommended. The rule in Boston is that 9 of the years from 6 to 18 be given to primary and grammar schools, and the remaining three to the high schools. What is recommended is that the former be reduced to eight years and the latter raised to four. This change would not apply to the two public Latin schools whose courses extend already to 6 years. Into these schools, moreover, none are admitted except those with declared intention of getting a pinch of college education. Yet for many children such intentions can not be formed so early, and it is a hardship upon others in whom has not been developed fitness for the college course until after long stay in the high school. To remedy both these evils it is needful to open not only a direct road from the high school to the college, and in the words of the secretary, "not one road only, but two, three or four roads." It is regarded a highly important step toward the end sought by the committee of ten when Harvard College decided to accept substitutes for Greek among the requisites for admission.
The four courses recommended by the committee are the classical, the Latin-scientific, the modern language, and the English. How a fourth year can be added to the present three years' course is discussed, and suggestions offered, as that Latin and German or French and concrete geometry be begun in the fifth year, that algebra be studied in the last year of the grammar-school course, that spelling be learned incidentally from any subject studied and not from a spelling book, and others.
Uniformity, that leading idea of graded-school systems, is handled with much acuteness, and shown, in some respects, to be unreasonable and hurtful. In order to make the changes practicable it will be necessary to make revision, recastings, and transfers in schools and classes, the importance of which the secretary admits, provided satisfactory adjustment of other questions is had, a matter which to him does not seem very difficult. These would be dealt with by the board of supervisors, if the school committee should decide to adopt the changes proposed or any portion of them. Another important matter is the view that was taken by the leading principals of schools who for some time past have had the subject under consideration.
Number of pupils belonging to the day schools, 67,487, an increase of about 2,000. The report deals mainly with the grammar schools, and discusses the questions how many more pupils take more and how much more, and how many take less and how much less than the course, which theoretically is six years. Miuute calculations are made aud considerations are taken of absence, differences of dates of entrance, etc.; added to these varying conditions of health, mental and moral weakness, domestic circumstances, which affect all schools. Yet much of the delay, it is argued, comes from inefficient teaching and indiscreet management of promotions, Says the report:
"To the unequal operation of one or the other or both of these causes may be attributed the very considerable differences observable among the schools. There must be great difference in the management of promotions when we find a full half of the pupils in some schools taking six and a half or more years of actual attendance to finish the course (as in several schools herein mentioned), while in others only five and one-half years or less time was required by a majority of the pupils to finish the same course.'
The report contends that in some cases certain tendencies of all graded schools have greater influence upon teachers than is just, such as excessive drillings and reviewings in order to bring classes to a satisfactory average, a habit which tends to concentrate attention upon pupils of medium capacity and industry, to the neglect both of those that are particularly bright, who can dispense with it, and those who are so dull or indocile whose timely elevation is hopeless. It is recommended, and it is contended to be practicable, to make several divisions even of the same grade. Such divisions, instead of being delayed to the end of a session or of a term, should be made in their midst whenever found to be desirable, even when change of room is not to be had. Some teachers who are especially judicious do this now, as there is no inhibition against a teacher beginning the next year's work before the end of this, whenever the pupils are prepared for the rise. The report also recommends that the time spent on the grammar-school course could be shortened to the four years' course, which, thongh containing the same matters, are divided into four grades instead of six. This offers opportunities for shortening the course in the grammar schools both in the beginning, and in the beginning of the second half; and, it is argued, the same methods of advancement ought to be practiced in primary schools, which are in greater need of increased effectiveness of teaching than the grammar schools. These are overcrowded, the old quota of 49 having been raised to 56, and this, the report contends, from motives of economy erroneous and hurtfu.