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Many teachers and administrators are interested in “How other schools are doing it." How do schools interest more parents in the work of the school? How do they bring about better total school planning to improve the curriculum ? How do they organize student councils and other groups for effective operation? These are but a few examples of questions frequently asked by almost everyone interested in improving education for children.
There are many good current practices in schools throughout the United States that need to be described for the benefit of others who may adapt these ideas to suit their own local situations. Some of these practices are described in this bulletin.
Material for the bulletin was gathered by staff members of the Elementary Section of the Office of Education through visits to classrooms; in interviews with superintendents, supervisors, principals, school board members, parents, teachers, and children; by reading school bulletins, survey reports, handbooks, news letters, annual reports, and similar printed materials of the selected school systems and by examining examples of children's work.
Selection of School Systems
At least one school system in every State was visited. Several factors influenced the selection of these school systems. As an initial step in the selection, members of the various State departments of education interested in elementary education were asked to identify good school systems in their States. These schools constitute most of those visited (see pp. 133-134 for listing). It was, however, impossible to visit every school listed by State departments of education because of limitations of time and of travel funds. Additional schools were suggested by members of the Elementary Education Staff of the Office of Education. Some of these were included in the visits. In many cases the determining factor in school selection, within the limits just described, was the travel schedule of the staff already established in relation to consultation service. It is important to say here that in many cases a practice described is probably not typical of a whole school system, but may be true only of a specific school in the system since usually
only one school in a locality was visited. The practices described may not be typical of those of the State either.
A similar study of organization and supervision in a hundred schools was conducted by the staff in 1947-48.1 The schools visited in connection with that study were in general not used in the present one.
Preparation for Observing
In planning for the school visits, the staff had a series of discussions devoted to various aspects of elementary education, including the problems of teaching in the different subject matter fields, various philosophies of education, problems of teaching and learning, uses of materials, and other phases of education. Through these preliminary discussions, several concrete suggestions for visiting were evolved. Then, after a number of visits were made, the findings were discussed. After each of the first 25 visits was made, the staff members heard detailed reports, asked questions of each other, and tried to determine those practices that would be most helpful to teachers in general. Those who made the later visits could then look for evidences of these practices. Through such refinement of purposes and concentration upon certain types of experiences that children should have, the group making the study arrived at an outline for this bulletin. This flexible outline helped to focus attention of the observers on such things as teachers and children at work, the relation of school and community, and the means used to improve teaching. The data collected through use of this outline form the basic material of this report.
Extent of the Study
We cannot justifiably say most schools are doing a certain thing because not all schools or school systems reported material on the same problems. The report attempts to set down as concretely as possible a description of how some schools in various parts of the country are effectively handling certain common educational problems. Material is not necessarily included because it is new. Readers will find in this bulletin descriptions of things "they have been doing for years," along with procedures they have never tried. Practices are described because they meet the needs of children and teachers in a specific local situation. The procedures described are not intended to be copied. It is hoped that they may stimulate readers to look carefully at their own practices for purposes of evaluation. Perhaps the most important use for the bulletin is to give a picture of what is happening in education in certain places in the United States.
1Organization and Supervision of Elementary Education in 100 Cities, Federal Security Agency, Office of Education, Washington, U. S. Government Printing Office, 1949. (Bulletin 1949, No. 11).
Specific schools are not identified by name; States only are mentioned. In some cases practices of several schools are combined in a summary statement. In other cases only a brief account of a practice is set down because of space limitations.
Schools at Work does not describe methods of teaching used in connection with various school subjects. Methods of teaching are discussed in a series of Office of Education bulletins entitled The Place of Subjects Series. Included in the series are: (1) The Place of Subjects in the Curriculum, Bulletin 1949, No. 12; (2) How Children Learn To Think, Bulletin 1951, No. 10; (3) How Children Use Arithmetic, Bulletin 1951, No. 7; (4) How Children Learn About Human Rights, Bulletin 1951, No. 9; (5) How Children Learn To Read, Bulletin 1952, No. 7; (6) How Children and Teacher Work Together, Bulletin 1952, No. 14. Two other bulletins in this series are yet to be published.
2The bulletins are available at 15 cents each from the U. S. Government Printing Office, Washington 25, D. C.
In-service education for all school personnel—teachers and administrators and others-each year assumes increasing prominence in schools throughout the country. The modern curriculum with its diversity of demands, the need for a common philosophy in the school staff, the practice of attempting to adjust curriculum material and methods of teaching to fit local and individual situations, and the necessity of employing teachers whose preparation is not adequate have been mentioned by educators as some of the reasons for this increased emphasis. These and other problems are responsible for the fact that almost every school system visited reported some plan for in-service education of its personnel.
In some cases this educational program is closely identified with a local or nearby institution of higher learning. In many instances the in-service education program is part of a total curriculumplanning project in which the entire school staff participates.
Although the in-service programs as reported in this section are varied in content and organization, they seem to have common
purposes: to supplement previous educational experiences, to solve problems peculiar to the local situation and thus fit the needs of the particular school, and to assist teachers in keeping abreast with educational developments.
As in the case of the other sections, the fact that an idea is reported here does not mean that we feel that it is unique. We are reporting various practices as they were observed. A composite picture of these practices helps to give an idea of the various ways in which schools are meeting their problems of in-service education.
A wide variety of in-service educational activities are included in the various programs-pre-school workshops, summer workshops, workshops held during the school year, organized courses, study groups, city-wide teachers meetings, and building meetings in each individual school.
While many, probably most, of these activities involve only elementary school teachers and administrators, some school systems report that they either are now including or intend to broaden the scope of in-service education to include teachers from secondary schools and in a few instances from the junior college faculty.
For example, a school system in Wyoming has planned its inservice program with the total 12 grades in mind, using certain elements of a life adjustment program as the basis for organization. Teachers are working, regardless of grade levels, on such committees as: Committee on Unmet Needs, Committee on Adaptability, Committee Concerned with Home-School-Community Relations, Committee on Evaluation and Research. Several other school systems report similar committee organizations, some temporary; some that function throughout the year.
Workshops as a type of in-service education activity vary as much as the concept of a workshop itself. In nearly all cases, however, the workshop is distinguished by the fact that its chief purpose is to provide opportunities for teachers and facilities for them to work with on problems of concern to them in the improvement of their work. It is probably accurate to say that the majority of the workshops are organized on the basis of a preliminary survey of the teaching staff to determine interests and needs. Typical of the areas selected are art, audio-visual aids, child behavior, exceptional children, curriculum planning, family life education, conservation, international relations, language arts, science