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Appeal is made for larger libraries for schools. The Teachers' Library, with over 6,000 volumes, is doing much good.
Time serves to strengthen the favor with which free text-books are regarded. For trial of the two systems of penmanship, the vertical and the slanting, six schools were assigned to the former and the remainder to the latter. The decision is heartily in favor of the vertical.
Evening schools are increasing in favor and attendance, as from year to year they are coming to reach children of school age, a very decided preponderance of attendance heretofore being of those over 21 years of age.
Report for 1895, Hon. John R. Kirk, superintendent of public schools.
It opens with an urgent appeal for more care in the construction of schoolhouses and laying off school grounds with a view to sanitation, convenience, and taste. Already city schools have recognized the importance of employing skilled architects to plan and oversee such work, and, besides the construction of new buildings, have gotten their services in the remodeling of such of the old as were susceptible of it. The case is unfortunately different in rural schoolhouses, which have been constructed mainly by cheap rural carpenters who have never even seen such a building that was constructed after modern methods. The superintendent visited as many as two hundred of these houses widely scattered, from the borders of Iowa to those of Arkansas, and he thus writes of them:
"With these evidences of existing conditions the conclusion is unavoidable that the children of the State are suffering enormous loss as to bodily health, strength, and vigor because of the unsanitary condition of our rural schoolhouses."
It is no comfort, the report argues, that the condition in Missouri in that respect is no worse than in many other States or that it is better than in some of them. This is not due to parsimoniousness in the people, but to want of intelligence in the investment of the liberal appropriations granted for the purpose. Any well-built schoolhouse can be sufficiently ventilated at a small cost, and only carefulness and some knowledge of the means are needed to make it so.
It is a matter of congratulation that the prominence taken by education in the mind of the public has wrought vast good, and in this special respect, that it is impossible for any one or more leaders of opinion to spring a system upon the people with expectation of its being adopted until they, who are to be responsible for it and affected by it, have had time and leisure to consider it. The report points with pride to the State University, the State normal school, to county teachers' institutes, to the multiplication of private schools and colleges, and the already 400 towns in the State that are aiming to establish high schools. "How," says the report, "to correlate, unify, and strengthen these institutions is a problem vast enough." The first suggestion as to needed legislation made by the report is a system of more careful inspection and supervision of all rural schools. The superintendent, after making himself acquainted thoroughly with the conditions and methods of many of these, particularly in the southwestern section of the State, cites one county especially in order to show how schools could be bettered by the use of proper care. This county is Jasper, the condition of whose schools is incomparably superior to that of those in the adjacent counties, and this is the cause of the difference:
"There is in that county an enthusiasm, a professional spirit, a standard of scholarship, an effectiveness of work done with which the schools of adjoining counties can not compare. But Jasper County has a man in the field every year. For two years or more she has done this. The county superintendents have been energetic, enthusiastic, professional teachers, ambitious young men who got out of town and worked. The schools of Jasper County are a monument to the intelligence of her superintendents and teachers, and to the progressive spirit of the people." The report urges action on the part of the legislature for the efficient care of the feeble-minded children of the State, whose number is calculated to be about 3,000. The report highly praises the efforts of the university to secure "articulation" with the secondary schools. Last year the legislature appropriated $4,000 for the University Summer School of Science, and great good has resulted in the importation of instruction to the high-school teachers. This instruction is given both by the university professors and by skilled specialists in high-school work. Harm has been done, the report says, by confused conception of high-school work as distinct from the work of colleges, and it is contended that there are sixty or seventy institutions in the State called colleges whose names ought to be those of academies or private high schools.
While admitting that the work in the normal schools has been of great benefit, there are some things yet the report considers needed. It says, "Every normaĺ
school should have a pedagogical laboratory. By this is meant a laboratory in the form of a model graded school of fifteen or twenty children in each grade, beginning, of course, with the kindergarten."
The report for the year 1896 is from the same superintendent. It begins with an earnest, thoughtful argument in favor of industrial education, answering the objections of those who are wont to style schools for that purpose as "shop schools," "trade schools," and "cooking schools." It cites the fact that prejudices have been so far overcome that work on a liberal scale has already been begun in the State University, and in Kansas City and other places.
Manual training has the indorsement of our State University, as shown by provisions for certain classes of its students; the second largest city of the State puts about $200,000 into a manual training high school. The manual training school of Washington University has long been well and favorably known; the industrial department of Lincoln University has cordial and general indorsement."
Attention is directed to the greater progress in form of such education that has been made in several other States when it has been established in institutions below high schools, beginning with the kindergarten. It is admitted that in rural schools such training has neither the same purpose nor the same necessity, yet there are things in which it would be found of much importance to the children of farmers, such as elementary principles that relate to the source, character, and reproduction of soils, and rotation of crops. They might easily have what ought to be known of the planting of trees, vegetables and flowers, the grafting of fruit trees, the care needed in their raising, the habits of noxious insects and the means of arresting their incursions. Then it is recommended that more instruction be given in the geography, fauna, and flora, not only of the State, but of other States and foreign countries. These would have, besides the valuable knowledge obtained, much greater influence than many suppose on mental development. An interesting report is given of the Kansas City Manual Training School. In that occur the following words, taken from a recent United States Government report, by Dr. C. M. Woodward:
"Manual training as an educational factor owes its existence to a widespread conviction that the education of the school has been dealing too exclusively with the abstract and remote, and not enough with the concrete and present," and there is given this statement regarding the aim of that institution, which is declared to be to prepare students of both sexes for the practical duties of life; to furnish a training of head and hand, useful alike to all classes, regardless of future occupation, and fit for entrance into modern courses of the best universities. It is not a trade school." The report deals with much plainness of the vastly unsatisfactory condition of rural schools. The following are some of the statements in this behalf:
"Missouri has over 9,000 one-room schoolhouses, each one under control of three directors-more than 9,000 separate independent school districts with more than 27,000 school directors, and these directors too often elected without regard to the fitness for position."
It may well be supposed that the argument against such a state of things is to the point.
On the subject of county institutes, the report declares that they are becoming slowly more useful as their importance becomes as slowly studied and appreciated. After setting down what are and what are not their purposes, it emphasizes the fact that these are wholly pedagogical, and until this truth becomes settled in men's opinions not very much of benefit is to be expected from the work done at their sessions.
The report is equally plain in discussing colleges so styled, and urgently asks that those which have much of the work of the mere academy should work for separation from it. In its opinion no college can exist, except in name, which is dependent upon tuition fees alone, and which has not an income-producing endowment of at least $100,000.
The report, however, speaks with pride of the five State institutions which are well organized and well equipped. The State University, the three State normal schools, and the Lincoln Institute for colored people. The first, during the last five years particularly, has been growing with great rapidity. The creation of the office of high-school examiners is looked upon as of much importance, promising to contribute to bring the high schools into more definite relation with the university and with others above them. Gratifying accounts come from Lincoln Institute and the three normal schools. Of that at Warrensburg the report says:
"The board of regents last June established a chair of pedagogy. . . . This will enable us to concentrate the work of the course under one management, instead of farming it out among the teachers of other departments."
KANSAS CITY SCHOOL REPORT.
The report for the year 1896 opened with an address to the people of the district by R. L. Yeager, president of the board of education, followed by a report from J. M. Greenwood, superintendent, to which is appended returns of subordinate officials.
The address says that the amount raised by taxation for school purposes has not been adequate for the rapidly increasing needs of accommodations. During the year as many as forty-six additional rooms have been employed, and at the time of submitting the superintendent's report the schoolrooms were yet as crowded as ever. It is earnestly desired to begin with manual training; the ground has been secured for the purpose, and it is hoped that the buildings will be ready for occupation by the end of 1897. The same is the case with the coming library building. The following extract is from the observations concerning politics on school
"It is a fact that in many places movements are being made toward non, or bipartisan and nonsectarian boards of education, while in quite a number of places such school boards have already been organized. This is as it should be, as by no other methods can school work be so well performed. The death knell has been sounded, we believe, to political boards."
The first movement toward kindergartens was not a success; yet the feeling in its favor has become so general that the board has decided to make another trial, which if successful will lead to general establishment of such schools throughout the city. The Central High School, with its 1,800 pupils, is greatly overcrowded, but some relief is expected from the opening of the manual training school next year.
Much praise is bestowed upon the Lincoln High School for colored people. It was hampered for several years by the difficulty of obtaining competent colored teachers. This has at last been overcome, and the instruction is rapidly advancing in satisfactory, benign work.
The report indulges at much length in observations on many subjects, as the school and citizenship, the principal and the teacher, suggestions to principals on management, etc. It admits that more rapid improvement is needed in many schools. The following paragraph concerning enrollment, attendance, etc., we give:
"The total enrollment for the year is 20,008, a gain of 819 over last year's total enrollment. The average number belonging is 15,286, also a gain of 667 over last year, and the average daily attendance is 14,535, a gain of 770 over last year, while the teaching force remained practically the same."
School children are allowed very generous privileges in the public library. What is called a children's room has been set apart for several years for advanced pupils. These facilities are to be larger in the coming new library, and that special department is to be presided over by a librarian who has become thoroughly acquainted
with all varieties of child literature.
ST. LOUIS SCHOOL REPORT.
The report ending in June, 1895, is made by F. W. Brockman, president of the school board organization, followed by one from F. Louis Soldan, superintendent. Very large expenditures of school funds were made during the year, owing to peculiar circumstances. There has been a notable shifting of population toward the west, northwest, and southwest, so rapid as to be quite in advance of the means accruing for the provision of school facilities. As current revenues were not at all sufficient, it was decided to sell a part of what is known as the permanent fund property, rather than submit the citizens to additional tax during a period of unusual financial exigency.
Enrollment of school children in day schools during the year was 70,428, with average of attendance of 51,014 and seating capacity of 59,668 seats. As many as eight night schools were held from October to March, two of which were for colored pupils, whose attendance was over 2,000. The showing for kindergartens is good, being connected with fifty-four of the schools. We subjoin the following under the head "Teachers' relief fund:"
"At the biennial session of the legislature of this State, held this year, the act creating the fund for the relief of the sick and superannuated teachers was passed. .. The Teachers' Aid Association has labored many years in this noble work, and by the act of the legislature its hopes have been crowned with success. It is
to be regretted that the law could not be made so as to require a specific tax for the purpose, but under the circumstances all was done that could possibly be accomplished."
Notable attention is given to sanitation in the schools of St. Louis, the regulations as to which require much circumspection on the part of teachers both in school time and during the hours of recreation.
Regarding promotions of teachers, a change has been made from the old system, by which ranking positions are filled in the schools wherein the vacancy occurs and not by transfer to others. These take place twice a year, in October and February. There are also two examinations a year for principals, or those applying for positions in the high school, the latter of which has the threefold end of finishing the education begun in the primary schools, fitting for entrance into college, though the number is but a small fraction of the whole, and giving professional training to women intending to teach. At present the normal school is embodied in the high school, and will so remain until 1897, when the last class will have graduated.
Considerable space is given to courses of study and discipline in all the schools, to the school for the deaf, and the colored schools, notably the Sumner High School and manual training.
A new course of study has been introduced, the features of which, in the words of the superintendent's report, are:
"Conversational lessons on conduct and general ethical subjects, the selection of specific topics for instruction in natural science, the reference by book and page to supplementary reading in geography, and the selection of 'memory gems' for each quarter and grade."
Report for 1895-96, Hon. E. A. Steere, State superintendent. The report remarks upon the excellent results of the new school law, on which cheerful hopes had been set by those who prepared it. Some teachers, it is true, have dropped off, but they were such as were expected and desired to do so from inability to cope with the new requirements for certificates. The advances in many respects have been constant.
Yet the fact still remains, to the regret of all, that there is a large number of children in the State who do not attend schools of any sort. The report is pronounced in its recommendation of means to lessen this misfortune. It says, among many other things:
"I seriously recommend that a law be created to prevent any child under 14 years of age from being employed in any mill, factory, business house, messenger, or in any business whatever that would employ them during school. In fact, I would like to see children under 14 prevented from being employed as messengers at any time. This business necessarily leads them into all resorts of vice and thus makes them familiar with crime at an early age. . . . Just so long as we allow child labor, we shall have an uneducated class, and thus unprincipled men and women." Other earnest pointed things on the subject are in the report.
Appeal for free text-books is again earnestly put forth. It has been hindered thus far by consideration of expense; but it is contended that after the first outlay this would be reduced within limits easy to be borne.
The normal school has not yet been completed. It is to be a very imposing building and the report trusts that it will be provided with funds adequate for its various needs. In the lack of such an institution, teachers' institutes have been doing what they could in the matter of assisting young teachers in preparation for their work in schools. But the short time during which they are held and the great number of subjects discussed keep such assistance from being of very considerable value. Slight as has been the change in the new law-raising the sessions from three days to five-even that has been attended with manifestly enhanced benefit. The principal lack heretofore has been of capable instructors. County superintendents, generally without much experience, rely upon the State superintendent, with whom it is not always possible to spend five days at everyone of these gatherings, twenty-three in number. It is recommended that all county superintendents, wherever it is possible, be required to hold institutes or summer normal schools of two weeks in the summer vacation, and it is suggested that several others be held at notable places, beginning with the university, which has already taken steps toward that end.
A favorable account is given of the State School of Mines.
The University of Montana was opened in September, 1895. Attendance, 135 for the first year, made satisfactory increase in 1896. Excellent results, it is claimed, have followed the action of the State board of education last year in establisting several accredited high schools.
Report for 1895-96, Hon. H. R. Corbett, State superintendent.
High praise is bestowed upon the law passed since the last report, providing for free attendance at public high schools, completing the system of free education in the common and high schools and the university. Pupils may attend high schools
in a county not their own when more convenient, the tuition of 50 cents a week to be paid by the latter.
The ambition of some principals and school boards unfortunately leads to the undertaking of more high-school work than their districts could afford. The new law discourages such action, by fixing within definite limits the high-school work for every school; a plan which was approved by the university authorities. The law provided by special examination for entrance into high schools of those without certificates from lower institutions. The consequence of all has been a largely increased attendance. The general operation will be made more easy by the forthcoming course of study for country and village schools by the State superintendent with help of a committee of county superintendents named by the teachers' association.
The report claims that Nebraska has two laws which are in no other State. One providing for "district ownership of text-books" and the "free attendance of nonresident pupils at public high schools." Specification of the former particularly are given in sufficient detail. Both laws were submitted by the superintendent in circulars to the people resident in the several districts, and the answers are that a decided majority favor them. The report recognizes that the new law will serve to "bridge the last gap" in the school system, by securing to children in rural districts the same facilities of education in high schools as are enjoyed by those in cities and towns.
The report appeals strongly for the increase of salaries in the teaching force. Economy in this should be put behind that in almost every other department of the public service. Liberality serves not only to secure competent officials, but renders their work both more efficient and more cheerful, by imparting consciousness of receiving reasonable compensation for faithful service and rendering the occupation more nearly permanent.
Comment is made upon the teachers' institutes. Their financial condition is good, from the liberal allowances in their favor, yet there seem to be serious defects, growing out of the manner in which their prominent officials are appointed. The county superintendent acts as conductor, selects the instructors, and undertakes the whole management. Herein are occasionally, fortunately not often, to be seen evidences of action "determined by personal friendship and political obligation." Then his acquaintance among teachers, except in his own county, is often very limited, a matter which disqualifies for intelligent selection. It is recommended that institute instructors should obtain certificates from a State board of examiners.
Summer schools have increased greatly in favor and attendance. Confidence in their value has served to bring on establishment of several by private initiative. A large list is appended. In particular, that of the university is highly praised, both on account of the efficiency of the work done and of the fact that, no provision having been made for expenses, such work is done with little or no compensation.
The superintendent, with much seriousness, urges again, under the head "Normal training," the crying need of greater competency among teachers, which can be gotten, if not only, at least mainly, in training institutions. Of the 8,843 teachers attending institutes in 1895 only 2,051 had attended normal schools of some kind, while what training was received by the others was gotten at institutes. The State Normal School has advanced at all points. The unfortunate dissensions some time back, which grew mainly out of political complications, have been healed to a degree through the influence of the State board of education acting in harmony with the governor. The faculty work more in harmony, and attendance is constantly increased. In this bettered condition it will become incumbent upon the legislature to make necessary appropriation.
Mention is made of State examinations and certificates, State and normal diplomas, county superintendents' meetings (for whose time and expenses compensation should be made), meetings by districts, the common-school course of study, temperance instruction, the free high-school attendance law, and the high-school system, in which, within the last two years, has been developed a more systematic relation among those constituting it to the State department and to the university, all this being due to the new school law of 1895. The report maintains that the number of high schools which prepare fully for the university should be small, but that those students who have completed the course in smaller schools should have free access to them when desirous of preparing themselves for the university. If it be allowed to graded high schools to give such preparation, the university must suffer from doing much of high-school work, and the communities in which they are situate be overburdened by the support of a school course unnecessarily prolonged.
OMAHA SCHOOL REPORT.
The report for the year 1896 begins with an address before the board of education by Ira O. Rhoades, its president, followed by the report of Carroll G. Pearse, superintendent of instruction, to which is appended those from lower officials.