Page images

served as a member of a city board of education, and afterwards of a township board. My own conviction is that it would be an improvement if (except for large cities) the counties were united in groups for this purpose, usually three counties in one group. I believe that this has the approval of many of the best teachers who have given some attention to this question. The district should be large enough'to make private and personal influence very improbable.

There should be at least two examiners,-better if there are three, at every examination. 'In overseeing the work of a class of candidates, more than one pair of eyes are needed. In weighing results, more than one judgment is needed. In eleven States the examinations are conducted by single examiners. In one of these States the State Board of Education submitted copies of the same examination papers to a large number of county superintendents, who were the examiners, requesting each one to examine and mark the papers and return them to the State Board. This was done, and the various markings compared. It was found that examiners differed in their judgment of the same answer by fifty or sixty, or even eighty, per cent, of the maximum attainable. Much of this was doubtless due to the incompetency of some of the examiners, and perhaps also to obscurity in the statement of the question ; but I have known experienced, careful examiners to differ by twenty-five per centum in their judgments. However, such difference would generally be less than ten per centuru after consultation and comparison of views. My conclusion is that the plan which is followed in most States, requiring a plurality of examiners, is more like to produce just decisions.

One of the examining board should always be the superintendent under whom the teacher is expecied to work. No other person is as much interested in having a fair and just examination as the superintendent. If the candidate has had charge of a school, no one is in as good a position to judge rightly of his ability as the skilled teacher who has inspected his labors. This principle has received the sanction of experience. In twenty-three States the superintendent of the schools of the county or town is, by law, an examiner of teachers. Also, in a great many larger towns and cities, the superintendent is one of the examiners. In many cases the good influence of this arrangement has neutralized or overcome the bad effects of district examiners for small districts. For these reasons, and in view of what appear to be the teachings of experience, I suggest that the best way to constitute a board of examiners is to have it consist of the superintendents of three contiguous districts.

Before proceeding to discuss the methods of examination it is well to



[blocks in formation]

consider the object. This is, primarily, to determine whether the applicant may have license to teach in a public school. “Primarily," for the examination may be used to ascertain the relative merits of teachers in order to classify them, and assign to each his proper rank. This use of the examination is recognized in about thirty States, perhaps more. In twelve States there are three grades; in nine States there are four grades ; in some States five or six; and in one State there are seven different periods of time for which certificates may

be valid. Usually certificates or licenses are valid for a limited time, and the rank of the teacher is shown by the time of the certificate; but in several States certificates of two or of three grades are valid for the same time. There seems to be no prevailing method or established principle to govern the classification of teachers.

The first distinction to be made is between those who are not yet recognized as teachers by profession and those who are so recognized. There are so few professional schools for the training of teachers that it is necessary, and will be for years, to allow many to begin the work of teaching who are only on trial. In four or five States certificates of the lowest grade are valid for a less time than one year, but generally the minimum is one year; and this is the better way, for these persons are supposed to be on trial, and six months is hardly long enough for the fair trial of a beginner. Some superintendents have advised that the teacher should never be granted a second certificate for a minimum period, and in one State at least this is the law. This may be, under some circumstances, good as a general rule when one of the board of examiners is the superintendent who has overseen the work of the candidate and can testify as to its success or failure. Where this has not been done, or where the failure is doubtful, it may be proper to continue the trial. Such trial certificates need not all be of the same grade ; some may be for primary work and some for higher grades. Some beginners may have the literary and scientific attainments which are needed for an assistant in high-school work.

The conclusion I arrive at is, that those who show sufficient knowledge may be on trial, licensed to teach for one year, and the examiners should have the power at their discretion to renew this. It might be proper to renew for several years, if the teacher shows every year some decided progress. There must be more normal schools and better ones before we can limit the trial-period to a single year. Those who show to the examiners sufficient knowledge and sufficient skill to be admitted to the profession, ought to be admitted without any limit of time.

In a majority of States certificates are issued for various numbers of years; in two or three States even ten-year certificates are issued. There is no more reason in this than there would be in admitting a lawyer to practice at the bar for a period of ten years. I can see no more reason in a license for two years than in one for ten years. If the holder is on trial, one year is long enough, and if not on trial, there is no justification for placing a limit of time on the license. There may, however, be a limit of grade, depending on scholarship. In practice the length of time of a certificate depends almost always on the literary attainments of the teacher, and it is the result of an effort to classify teachers. But there is no justice in it.

I have known a woman, a gentlewoman, who possessed in a high degree the two essentials of a good teacher, common sense and a loving heart. Her scholarship did not reach high, but she was a good teacher. Teaching was her profession, and she deserved a life certificate as much as any of her examiners, but she was compelled every year to fret her honest soul with vile problems on higher arithmetic and syntactical analysis. Her examiners were honest men, and they knew her worth. They made a compromise between their sense of right and the time-system of grading; they ignored the ignorance of syntax, and every year issued a certificate for one year.

The system ought not to make such compromises necessary. Every teacher known to do good work ought to have a certificate for life.

On the other hand, no amount of scholarship or of science can of itself make one worthy to be admitted to the profession. The college graduate, with the highest honors of the class, may be unprepared and unfit to teach others. Then the object of the examination of teachers may be definitely stated to be,

To separate those who may not teach from those who may;

To divide those who may teach on trial from those who are finally admitted to the profession;

3. To ascertain in what subjects each teacher is competent to give instruction, and to grade accordingly both trial and life certificates.

Of course, when teachers already having life-certificates wish to be authorized to teach a higher grade of school, they can be examined as to the new subjects.

The manner and the matter of the examination are indicated somewhat in the discussion of its objects. The subject matter must, of course, include all of the course of study to the end of the grade in which the applicant wishes to be ranked. It must include more than this. To teach properly the mathematics of any grade, the teacher should know at least as much as is taught in the grade above. To teach anything well, the teacher should know more than is given in



the text-book, for we do not know anything well unless we know what is around and beyond.

In addition to what is in the school course, the examination should include a knowledge of the science of education. Even those who have never taught and are candidates for only a trial-certificate, should have studied the science of education; they should have studied what is written by experienced teachers. It may be said that if this were insisted upon, in many parts of the country the schools would be closed for want of teachers. With sorrow I am compelled to believe this is so. Nevertheless the rule is right. Its justice is so manifest that I do not see how to make it clearer by argument. We might as well admit lawyers to practice who have never opened a law-book, or physicians who have never studied medicine, as teachers who have never studied the science of education. If we cannot apply the rule now, we can at least recognize its propriety, and we can try to make it possible. In the meanwhile, examiners may, with due caution, extend the trial period in certain cases.

Candidates for final admission to the profession should be examined on all the previous matter, and their knowledge should be more thorough than is required for those who are admitted on trial.

Such a candidate should be able to explain and defend his own methods of government and instruction. In addition to the direct examination, , the examiners should have before them a detailed report on each case by the superintendent who has inspected the candidate's school-work. They may learn something from the school records which the candidate has made. Also the evidence of the school committee and of others, might be admitted, leaving to the examiners to determine its weight, as is done by other courts. This is the rule of evidence in courts of justice. A board of examiners exercises a judicial function. They are judges, and they may with propriety receive and fairly weigh all evidence that bears upon the fact which they are to determine.

In what remains to be said about the methods of examination, the judicial character of the work must be borne in mind.

The evidence given by the superintendent is of greater value than that given by others, because the superintendent is an expert; he knows better than the average member of a board of education what is good work done by a teacher. I have assumed all the while that efficient supervision is a part of the school system. There is no room in this paper for the argument of that question, farther than this,there ought to be superintendents, even if there were no other use for them than to constitute boards of examiners.

Statements given by persons who are not teachers are of very little

value. This is true of statements from teachers, if there is no opportunity to question the witness. Such evidence ought not to be admitted at all on a matter which the examiners can find out by examining the candidate. In West Virginia, the rule is announced that "no diploma or recommendation from a college president or faculty supersedes the necessity of an examination.” This is in accordance with the established rules of courts in the admission of evidence. No candidate having the required knowledge has any cause to fear a fair examination. Diplomas from normal schools ought to be received on the same ground, allowing them their due weight, but not to supersede the necessity of examination.

When, in the board of examiners, the superintendent tells what he knows about the candidate, he is for the time a witness rather than a judge, and he should state the facts, that his fellow-examiners may exercise their own judgment.

No person of bad or of doubtful moral character should have charge of children in school. The evidence of character required by examiners is frequently very flimsy,-merely certificates from persons themselves unknown. It was the custom of the first State Board of Examiners of Ohio to make an independent investigation, and obtain evidence entirely separate from the statements presented by the candidate before a certificate was issued. A life-certificate ought never to be allowed on merely one-sided testimonials.

There are several details of methods which I had proposed to discuss, such as a State board of examiners to supervise all the work of examination of teachers throughout the State ; the relative value of oral and written examinations; the publicity of examinations; how far candidates may be trusted; the use of marks received at previous examinations, etc. ; but already this paper is long enough. Suffice it to say, that the examination should be thorough, and it should be fair. There should be time enough, particularly for life-certificates, and when examiners are in doubt, they should not reject, but continue the examination till their judgments are satisfied.

A word about questions. I cannot too strongly condemn the foolish questions that are sometimes put. Our journals frequently amuse their readers with examples of silly answers, answers that are very ridiculous and deserve to be laughed at. But what shall be said of foolish questions? A foolish answer merely shows that one candidate is not fit to pass, but a foolish question is an injustice to a whole class of candidates. I have seen an "arithmetic paper" at a teacher's examination, in which one problem required the demonstration of a new proposition in geometry; and when it was done, the only arithmetical

« PreviousContinue »