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I am certain, therefore, that a more constant and active participation in political affairs on the part of our men of education would be of the greatest possible value to our country.
It is exceedingly unfortunate that politics should be regarded in any quarter as an unclean thing, to be avoided by those claiming to be educated or respectable. It would be strange indeed if anything related to the administration of our Government or the welfare of our nation should be essentially degrading. I believe it is not a superstitious sentiment that leads to the conviction that God has watched over our national life from its beginning. Who will say that the things worthy of God's regard and fostering care are unworthy of the touch of the wisest and best of men? I would have those sent out by our universities and colleges not only the counsellors of their fellow-countrymen, but the tribunes of the people-fully appreciating every condition that presses upon their daily life, sympathetic in every untoward situation, quick and earnest in every effort to advance their happiness and welfare, and prompt and sturdy in the defense of all their rights.
I have but imperfectly expressed the thoughts to which I have not been able to deny utterance on any occasion so full of glad significance and so pervaded by the atmosphere of patriotic aspiration. Born of these surroundings, the hope can not be vain that the time is at hand when all our countrymen will more deeply appreciate the blessings of American citizenship, when their disinterested love of their Government will be quickened, when fanaticism and passion shall be banished from the field of politics, and when all our people, discarding every difference of condition or opportunity, will be seen under the banner of American brotherhood, marching steadily and unfalteringly on toward the bright heights of our national destiny.
NEW JERSEY SCHOOL REPORT.
Report for 1895, Hon. A. B. Poland, State superintendent.
The adoption of the township system reduced the number of school districts from 1,403 in 1891 to 374 in 1895. The weaker districts have in many instances been joined to stronger, by which the greater part of the inequality of taxation and population has disappeared.
The report is outspoken upon the beneficial results of the laws adopted by the legislature in 1894 and 1895. Among proofs of great progress are mentioned the following: Larger expenditures than ever before for new buildings; larger expenditures for repairs and permanent improvements of all kinds; free supply of text-books; increased salaries of teachers; greater demand for trained and successful teachers; unusual progress in grading schools; appointment of supervising principals in townships; better attended and more enthusiastic school meetings in nearly every district in the State.
Some fears had been indulged that the strong districts would be crippled by consolidation with the weak, but experience has proved that these fears were without good foundation. The whole have been strengthened by being placed under the same supervision and management. So also were the apprehensions that, the village schools might be to a degree handicapped by the rural.
Improvement in school buildings has been more notable than in any previous year, as many as 95 new ones having been erected and nearly as many more enlarged, refurnished, and remodeled, the amount of money in that behalf expended being near by three-quarters of a million.
The legislature of 1894, unwisely, it is thought, allowed small boroughs of only a few hundred of population to constitute separate school districts. The legislature limited the privilege to those containing 400 and over. Even as it is, however, some of the evils of the old district system must remain, the calculation being that a school district, to be capable of being properly graded and taught, must contain a number of 500 to 1,000 school children.
Noteworthy, says the report, is the constant decrease of men teachers. These are paid as well as ever; but other avocations have become more attractive to men of requisite competency, and those without this can no longer give employment under late advanced methods. To some degree this falling off is to be regretted, as tending to disturb what is believed to be desired and even needed-a just equilibrium between the sexes. The report, among other things on this head, says:
"Women, as a rule, possess more sympathy, delicacy, and tact, hence for small children are better adapted than men; but the sterner, the more vigorous, and forceful qualities of a man are needed to develop fully the character of pupils and engage successfully in the struggle of life."
The report argues the necessity of employing (as in cities) superintendents to townships comprising several schools, though widely scattered, the additional cost being made up by appointing a leading teacher to the office. Then cooperative supervision, as in the State of Massachusetts, might be agreed upon by two or more
districts. Regret is expressed that the State is so notably far behind many others in the matter of high schools, and earnest appeal is made for their increase, as well as for the establishment of other normal schools. The counties of Essex, Passaic, and Hudson are centers of population even greater than Mercer, where is situate the one overcrowded institution of the kind. It seems a hardship that in several populous centers, resort for want of normal has to be had to special training schools. In view of the fact that the public schools are required to be open during at least nine months in the year (a longer term than in any other State), every facility possible should be afforded toward compliance, practical and efficient.
Improvements, according to the State report of 1896, have been made all along the line of education. The new rule requiring a uniform course of study for the respective counties is cordially indorsed. Among other things said in its favor are the following:
"Under its provisions the old go-as-you-please methods of the rural schools will become a thing of the past. The teacher will feel the stimulus of specific requirements within definite periods of time, and systematic and substantial progress will result. Another certain effect of this measure will be to place the rural schools in the same line of progress as the well-graded schools of our larger towns and cities and contribute to the advantage of both."
Another rule is much approved, which provides for county pedagogical libraries. This has been met with much favor everywhere, and it is predicted that it will be one of the most benign provisions ever made in behalf of free education. The report also praises the rule authorizing the issuance of county diplomas to pupils who shall successfully complete the prescribed course of study, and to those teachers who shall intelligently complete the course of professional reading adapted to their respective grades and further the granting of special certificates. The conditions on which these may be obtained must be getting not less than 80 on any one branch and a general average not less than 90 proofs of exceptional skill in organization and management of a school.
The tables show large increase in amounts expended in teachers' salaries, in buildings, in text-books, and apparatus, improvement in the grading of schools, steadily increasing demand for trained teachers, more intelligent interest on the part of local school boards, increase in number of teachers with high-grade certificates, and revival of interest in teachers' institutes. In the new buildings attention is shown, not only to general comfort and fitness, but to tasteful ornamentation.
Manual training, comparatively new in the State, is receiving enhanced attention, and recommendation is offered that the annual appropriation, thus far limited to $25,000, may be increased.
The report earnestly urges increase in kindergarten instruction. Some of its language we quote: "This not only prepares the way for manual training, but also lays the best foundation for all subsequent school work. It has met the supreme test of experience, and proved itself worthy of introduction in some modified form into every public school. In the majority of our large towns and cities the crying need of our schools is more seating capacity, more room. This should be speedily remedied, the legal school age reduced to 4 years, and all of this age included in the apportionment of school moneys. The practical value of the kindergarten as an educational value force having become established, it should receive from the State such recognition and encouragement as is due. The State department is improving every opportunity to emphasize the value and importance of this form of instruction and to give it a larger place in public interest."
The report makes an equally urgent appeal for increase of secondary (high) schools. "Anyone," it says, "interested in educational affairs can not have failed to observe that in every town or village where a high school has been established it has resulted in the betterment of its entire school system. In employing a competent teacher for such a school they also secured supervision that systemized and improved all the lower grades. The tendency of the college is toward the rounding out and elevation of the high school, and that of the high school toward the betterment of all the grades below it; thus, in the educational as in the material world, light comes from above."
Again an urgent appeal is made for additional normal schools, the need of which is so great that the superintendent confidently predicts their inevitable speedy establishment. Notwithstanding this pressing want, the number of inexperienced teachers is annually decreasing, that for the last year being only 20 in an accession of 236 to
NEWARK SCHOOL REPORT.
Report for 1895, William N. Barringer, city superintendent.
The report makes extended observations of the pressing needs of greater school accommodations, needs which naturally increase from year to year because of the constant growth of population.
The three kindergarten schools already established have been doing satisfactory work, and there are numbers of first-year classes doing the work introductory to the
The high school gains continually in favor, and urgent appeal is made for erecting a building suited to all its important ends, about the location of which care in selection is recommended.
Complaint is made of insufficiency in the number of normal schools in the State. In this behalf the report says:
"We can not, in any satisfactory degree, supply the schools of the State with professionally trained teachers with our present normal resources. We should have at least three of those institutions in the State-one in the southern part of the State, another in the northern--to cooperate with our excellent central normal school at Trenton."
It is claimed that Newark yet stands practically alone in the creation of summer schools. During the ten years of their existence the benefits resulting have been eminently satisfactory.
Work in the evening schools has been far from satisfactory. They seem to be not well understood by the public, many of whom severely criticise it. Then the session (one hour and forty-five minutes), the report argues, is too short. Another difficulty is the employment of inexperienced teachers. This last is, perhaps, the most serious among the hindrances that obstruct their success. This year their management was placed in control of the evening school committee, whose first action was deciding to employ none as teachers who have not had some experience. The result is that conditions have become much more satisfactory. The evening high school does good work, but this is embarrassed by slight attendance from the same causes as in the district schools.
The truant department is claimed to be doing better than ever before, because of increased cooperation of parents and others. There was decrease in number of cases reported. Greater vigilance is claimed also on the part of looking after the health of children in all the schools, the number of deaths being 62 in an enrollment of 30,000.
Manual training has not yet been introduced, but the report recommends its introduction, placing it under control of the committee on text-books, course of study,
The report makes several considerate observations on class-room work.
It concludes with a review of the work done by the board of education within the last nineteen years, from 1877 to 1896. Among the improvements made were devising of means for obtaining more and more competent teachers through professional training, as by the daily normal school; another, reduction of classes, which used to range from 60 to 120; in providing better methods for ventilation; sanitation is another; diminishing the number of formal examinations; another, establishment of summer schools; and others, as methods of honorary promotion and graduation, establishment of evening schools, kindergartens, etc.
Total enrollment of pupils was 33,505; average enrollment, 23,363; average attendauce, 20,727.1.
Report for 1896, Amado Chaves, Territorial superintendent.
Congratulation is made for the recent completion of the fine normal school building at Silver City, for the notable improvement in school buildings in many of the towns, and for the high average in ability and faithfulness in the teaching force. Home institutions are turning out graduates who, it is claimed, are the full equals of those who come with diplomas from the States, and the report warmly urges their more frequent relations to positions in the educational system.
The report, considering the well-nigh impossibility of collecting the poll tax, argues that it be abolished altogether, and its collection, as all other taxes are, be devolved upon the county collector. It complains also that school superintendents are hampered by the limits set by the law upon their powers, which operate neither upon teachers nor directors whose abuses the superintendents are without any authority to suppress. It is contended that provision should be made whereby
no contract shall be valid without approval by the superintendents, whose only power, as the law now stands, is to sign warrants for teachers' salaries, whereas directors employ teachers, fix their salaries, and buy all supplies. Required by law to visit school districts annually, much of the superintendent's salary is thus expended.
The report recommends that some limit be fixed to the duration of teachers' certificates.
Attention is again called to the inequable apportionment among the districts, and the claims of the Spanish language among those children whose vernacular it is. Some of the language in this appeal is even pathetic, and it certainly makes clear that in some of the districts acquaintance with that tongue is absolutely essential to teachers.
The university, having abolished the subpreparatory classes, is doing reasonably well considering the lack of increase in its appropriations. So with the College of Agricultural and Mechanical Arts, the School of Mines, and the Institute for the Deaf, Dumb, and Blind.
Report for 1895, Hon. Charles R. Skinner, State superintendent.
While claiming steady advance in public education, the report admits that school supervision is lacking much in completeness and efficiency. The variously extensive functions of the commissioners render it difficult among so vast a number of applicants to avoid occasional mistakes in selecting. A bill was prepared and submitted to the present legislature providing for additional qualifications in candidates for commissioners, and increasing their salary; but the opposition of the commissioners themselves kept it in the senate committee. The report, with much earnestness, commends the subject to the next legislature, and will recommend that at least the standard of their education be raised and that experience alone, however long, be not regarded sufficient; and it recommended further that salaries of commissioners be not increased, without such rise in qualification being made obligatory.
The report calls attention to the large number of weak rural districts, and the pressing need of consolidation. The following extract gives some noteworthy facts: "There are 2,751 school districts in the State where the total resident population of school age is less than 20, and there are 502 districts in the State where the total resident school population is less than 10. There were 7,529 school districts in this State where the average attendance upon instruction in the public schools during the last school year varied from 1 to 20 pupils, while there were 2,893 where the average daily attendance was less than 10. In 1860, the school population of the State, outside of its cities, was 894,432. At the close of the school year of 1895 the school population of the State, outside of its cities and villages, containing upward of 10,000 people, was 609,146-a decrease of 285,286, or upward of 31 per cent, while the number of school districts in 1860 was 11,358. While the number of school children has decreased during that time nearly one-third, there has been substantially no decrease in the number of rural districts, etc."
Then the report proceeds to argue that the township, or some unit larger than the present, is indispensable. Meanwhile, these small districts should be consolidated with larger, and transportation furnished to those pupils residing at inconvenient distance from the schoolhouses.
Several changes are recommended for a more effective operation of the compulsory school law, among them that attendance officers be appointed by town boards, and their jurisdiction extend over all the school districts in the town not provided with such officers, and the compensation be a town charge, and that any persons committing a truant have power, when seeming advisable, to parole him
The report argues that it is as important that examinations and licenses of teachers for city public schools be under State supervision as those in rural districts. While there is no general law fixing a standard of qualification, the evident need of it has led to its voluntary adoption in quite a number of the cities. The report maintains that out of the nearly $13,000,000 paid annually to teachers, not a dollar should be paid to one who does "not hold a certificate of some form, issued under the regulations of the State department of public instruction;" and it adds: "During the school year ending July 31, 1895, 12, 530 teachers were employed some portion of the school year in the public schools of the cities of this State, and the State had nothing to say in determining the qualifications of 10,966 of these teachers."
Much benefit is claimed to have resulted from the uniform system of examination of teachers, but some modifications in the issuance of licenses are suggested as advisable, as well as that uniformity should be in the time of expiration of certificates. An important movement was in the establishment of a School of Pedagogy in connection with Corneli University.
A large number of decisions in appeal cases is subjoined and elaborate reports of operations in all departments.
The report for 1896 is from the same superintendent, Hon. Charles R. Skinner. It speaks in high praise of last year's operations, claiming that "the outlook for the future was never brighter." Yet there has been inevitable and expected decline in rural schools owing to continuance of influences herein before mentioned. The district system has been condemned about unanimously by superintendents for many years, and in several other States it has given away to the township. The average of attendance in more than 3,500 of these districts is not over 10 pupils. The law provides for the consolidation of many of these, but is hindered by local sentiment, which is satisfied to cling to the past with all of its clumsiness. This sentiment seems almost obdurate in such a case as the following:
"One of the officials of this department reports visiting a country school in company with the school commissoner of the district, and finding there a teacher at work on a piece of embroidery, but with no pupils in attendance. Inquiry elicited the information that the school had been in session three weeks without any pupils, and that there were only two children of school age in the entire district, both of whom were expected to attend the school later on.
The normal schools are represented as doing finely, between 9,000 and 10,000 being enrolled in all departments. So the training schools. The report says that with existing abundant facilities for training teachers, there is no present demand for
With the growing sentiment that commissioners should have teaching experience, a large majority of those elected in the preceding November were thus qualified. Among the most efficient in this force are several women whose work has been done with entire satisfaction. There is a growing general demand that the salaries of these officials be raised to a degree that will attract attention from those whose qualifications are well known to be entirely adequate.
By a law of 1895 the minimum course of study in the high schools has been made three years, and the report makes suggestion of several matters that should be put in the minimum of requirement for entrance. The same legislature put the minimum of age among teachers at 18 years.
There are a few of what are called "exempt districts," wherein local authorities claim the right to examine and license teachers. These districts, fifteen in number, have given considerable annoyance to the department of superintendence which insists that the power of licensing should be uniform and be vested in the State department of public instruction. It is plainly said that the weakest feature in the school system is the different standards employed in different cities. Out of the thirty-four cities in the State as many as twenty-four have adopted uniformity voluntarily.
The compulsory-education law is said to be productive of much good, and some suggestions are made of matters wherein it is in need of additional enactments. Libraries, under generous appropriations, are growing with much rapidity and dispensing great benefits.
BROOKLYN SCHOOL REPORT.
Report for 1895, William H. Maxwell, superintendent.
The number of pupils instructed was 145,998, a gain of 9,497. Per cent of attendance rose to 71.1, while the average number of pupils to a teacher is yet exorbitantly high (being 70 in the lowest primary grade), yet it is considerably lower than a year ago, when in that grade it was 77.
The following is sufficiently plain language about the glut in a certain class of officials:
"Within the schools there is now a supervisor-principal, or head of department, who is not responsible for the work of a class, to about every ten class teachers. As I have separately pointed out, this system is extremely expensive. Supervision within the schools now costs more in Brooklyn than in any other city in the country, with the exception, perhaps, of New York. The expense of this system, however, is only one of the arguments against it. The multiplication of supervisors has withdrawn many of our best class teachers from the active work of teaching to the great detriment of our schools, and without adequate compensatory benefit. Furthermore, it has been the fruitful parent of unseemly wire-pulling for place, bickering, and jealousies that interfere seriously with the work of many schools. There would be decided gain in efficiency, and a decided saving in cost, if one-half of the heads of departments were set to work teaching classes."