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NUMBER OF DAYS ATTENDED.
The total number of days attended by all pupils was 1,129,955,876, which gives an average of 60.1 days for each person 5 to 18 years of age.
If this were a constant quantity, so that each child received on an average 60.1 days' common school instruction annually while passing from his fifth to his eighteenth year, he would get all together 781.3 days of schooling. This is equivalent to about four years (3.9) of 200 days each, and is a time measure of the amount of instruction the public schools furnish each person of the population at the present rate.
The average amount of schooling given for each person 5 to 18 years of age varied the past year (column 3) from 21 days in North Carolina and 22.9 in New Mexico to 90.5 in Massachusetts. In the North gen generally, it is about double what it is in the South, owing in part to a longer school term and in part to the larger percentage of the school population attending school.
Of the pupils actually enrolled, each one attended on an average 87.1 days (column 4).
The average length of time the schools were in session (column 8) was 135.7 days, an increase of one day over the preceding year, and of 5.4 days over 1879-80.
Some notable cases of change in the length of the school term are recorded in the table. The loss of seven days in Maine is due to the diversion of funds to the improvement of schoolhouses and higher salaries for male teachers. Massachusetts shows a reduction of eight days; this "does not arise," says State Superintendent Dickinson, "from any want of appreciation of the work of the schools, or from any unwillingness to give them liberal support, but rather from the feeling that from thirty to thirty-six weeks per year is all the time that can be profitably spent in school. And what contributes to this feeling is the desire of many families to spend a longer time at the summer resorts. To provide for such families, and to avoid the demoralizing effects of having a part of the school withdrawn, the summer vacation is in many instances prolonged at both ends. The long vacations, together with the frequent holidays during the year, seem already to have encroached upon the school time to an undesirable extent."
The school term of Pennsylvania shows an increase of 7.6 days, the result in part of increasing the State appropriation from $1,500,000 to $2,000,000. The effect of the "great appropriation" of $5,000,000 in 1891 does not yet appear in the statistics.
Kentucky, Tennessee, and Texas all largely increased their school term in 1890-91, the latter by sixteen days. On the other hand, Ohio, Kansas, and Oregon show a considerable decrease.
Observations on ascertaining the average length of school term.-The aggregate number of days' attendance given in the above table, when not reported direct by State
superintendents, has been obtained by multiplying the average daily attendance of pupils by the average length of school term in days. Either of these three quantities is thus made a most simple function of the other two, and can be readily obtained when the other two are given. Though this relation between these three quantities does not rigidly subsist in the statistical systems of many of the States, owing to diverse methods of computing average attendance and average length of school term, yet the assumption that it does is correct in principle and gives more accurate results in practice than any other.
A practical application is made of this principle in finding the average length of school term of a number of States, as recorded in the summaries of column 8, where the aggregate attendance in days in each division and in the United States, is divided by the corresponding average daily attendance to get the average length of school term in days of each group of States.
By this method the school term of each State in taking the average is in fact given a weight proportioned to the school attendance of the State, as should be done under a correct interpretation of the expression "average length of school term." The result might more properly be called "average length of attendance," which is essentially what it is desired to know.
A method in use in some States for finding the average school term of a county, for instance, is to weight the different school terms of the towns or districts the county is composed of by the number of schools in each; in other words, the total number of days (or months) all the schools of a county were kept is divided by the total number of schools, to get the average time each one was kept. So in finding the average term for the State, the school is taken as the unit instead of the pupil, as in the Bureau's method. When the schools differ much in size (number of pupils), as they do in all mixed urban and rural systems, varying from some half dozen to five hundred or more pupils each, the average term obtained by this method varies considerably from that obtained by the foregoing. The long terms of the large city schools not being given their proper weight, the resulting average is too small. The same objection applies still more forcibly to weighting the school terms of the different counties or towns by the number of school districts in each.
Still another method is to add together the school terms of the different counties or towns, and divide by the number of such counties or towns; i.e., the simple arithmetical mean is taken. Smithville, for instance, with its 100 pupils, counts for as much in forming the average as the metropolis, with its 100,000. Smithville, 60 days; metropolis, 180 days; average term of the two, 120 days. This method, if it can be so called, gives altogether too short an average term, and nothing can be said in defense of it. It is as if, wishing to get the population per square mile of Minnesota and Dakota combined, we said, Minnesota, 9.86; Dakota, 0.92; average number of persons per square mile in the combined territory (0.92+9.86)÷2=5.39, instead of dividing the total population of the two States together by the combined area in square miles.
The " aggregate number of days attendance" is a statistical item of the utmost simplicity and of great value, about the meaning of which there can be little or no difference of opinion. Every teacher's register that records the number of pupils present each day in any school, as they all presumably do, contains the data for ascertaining it for that school for the school year by the simple process of addition, or summing up.
*These summaries include only the States tabulated in the same columns bolow.
• Average yearly decrease or increase for two years.