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ungraded schools; Indiana, sixty-five; Illinois, forty-two; New Jersey, twenty-five; Minnesota, forty; Ohio, fifty; Wisconsin, fifty-eight; Florida, ninety; Massachusetts reports only ten; California reports no ungraded schools, but forty per cent of the pupils are in schools of one or two rooms. These figures, at best, are only approximate; but they are enough to show the magnitude of the question under discussion. Undoubtedly the number of pupils enrolled in ungraded schools will reach nearly, if not quite, fifty per cent of the entire enrollment. If we include schools of two or three rooms having practically no supervision, and which are but partially graded, the per cent would be much higher. It is very difficult to gather statistics which show the number of teachers in the ungraded schools having anything like an adequate preparation for their work. When we take into consideration the fact, that the very large percentage of graduates of our normal schools is absorbed by the schools in the cities and larger villages, and that generally the bright teachers, who have had the benefit of a partial course in the normal school, work their way into graded schools as fast as possible, it is evident that the schools in the country are mainly left to the care of novices without any special training.
The school age, the manner of gathering statistics, the number of months in the school year, vary so much in the different states that it is impossible to arrive at anything but general conclusions. In the number of trained teachers employed in the different states there is a wide margin. Virginia and Kentucky report only ten of every one hundred teachers as having anything like an adequate preparation for their work. Texas and Nebraska report only a very few. In some parts of California seventy per cent have professional training; in others, as low as ten.
Rhode Island.-About ten per cent with only a common school education, forty per cent normal trained teachers, and the remainder having either a high school or an academic training.
Missouri.-About twenty-five per cent of the teachers in ungraded schools are really prepared to teach.
Minnesota.-About nineteen per cent of the teachers in our common school districts have attended normal school.
Michigan.-About twenty or twenty-five per cent of the teachers of the schools have had some normal training.
Wisconsin.-About fifty per cent of the teachers are really prepared for their work. Two thousand six hundred and forty-four of them claim no higher preparation than that obtained in the common schools.
Indiana.--About fifteen to twenty-five per cent of our teachers in the ungraded schools have had an adequate preparation for their work.
It is not necessary to follow these statistics. They are taken from different sections of the country and are sufficient to indicate condi. tions in the rural schools. What is a fairly adequate preparation for the work of these schools? When we consider the low salaries paid, the short term of continuance in the work,--not much if any over three years,-it is evident that we cannot require a high standard of scholarship nor four years' attendance at a preparatory school. A reasonable preparation ought to embrace these three particulars:
1. A thorough acquaintance with the elementary branches. This would include a discussion of the educational values of these branches, both as sources of knowledge and of discipline; what stud. ies should be introduced as best calculated to benefit the children in the mining districts, in the farming districts, and other questions as incidental to the formation of courses of study, which should be sufficiently elastic to suit conditions in different sections of the same state. But these all yield preference to the thought, that whatever the teacher attempts to teach, that she herself must know.
2. A practical knowledge of the best methods of teaching, of school management, and an elementary knowledge of the principles of education.
3. More or less practice in actual school work under a skilled trainer. This preparation would touch the three points in which the country school teacher is weakest.
These are the minimum of requirements, and can possibly be compassed in a two years' course, provided the entrance examination is rigid in the fundamental branches. Here we are confronted with the fact that no state provides means sufficient to give to the teachers advantages for obtaining this special preparation. Massachusetts, with six normal schools and with four additional schools in course of erection, comes the nearest to it. Pennsylvania has thirteen normal schools, each well equipped, but she has an army of 26,000 teachers. New York, with eleven schools and a large number of training classes, is yet very far from being able to place a trained teacher in every schoolroom in the state. To put Iowa on an equal footing with Massachusetts would require the establishment of twenty-five normal schools. While the erection, in any state, of high grade normal schools as centers of influence and enlightenment, with courses of instruction covering three or four years, is exceedingly desirable, it is evident that the solution of the problem does not lie in that direction.
There are four courses open to us:
1. The improvement of the county institute. This is not the place to discuss the institute system, except as regards a few particulars in which it touches closely the preparation of teachers for rural schools. It will not do to turn the institute into a school for academic work, the aim being to enable the teachers to pass the examination. The tendency in this direction is altogether bad. The spirit in which the institute was founded, calculated to create and foster a professional enthusiasm among teachers and an educational enthusiasm in the entire community, should not be overlooked. It is a very essential feature in the system. In the Western and Southern States, where for a time we must depend upon the institute to aid us in preparing country teachers for their work, there is one point which must be insisted upon. The instructors must be persons who know what good teaching is. They must be men and women who have had a professional training, and who have made a study of the conditions and wants of the schools in which the teachers in the institute are to instruct. Every exercise should be full of professional spirit, and every recitation should be a model recitation. It happens many times that the institute is the only opportunity given the teachers to learn by actual experience in what a good school consists. This one point being carefully guarded, the institute may be left to take such form and shape as the conditions of the community may determine. A dead uniformity in institute work even in the same state is to be dreaded.
2. A system of summer or training schools under the care and direction of state authority. Minnesota is making this experiment with assured success. A school of six weeks' duration, if rightly conducted, gives the teacher an opportunity to review, under a competent instructor, branches in which she is deficient. It is a new era in the life of many country teachers to come under the influence of a scholarly and cultured person, if only for a few weeks. Even this minimum of training thus secured cannot but be productive of good to the schools.
3. The state should avail itself of existing educational institutions. It is a fact which every one acquainted with educational prog. ress in the Western States must have observed, that those colleges in which sound scholarship is the basis of work have produced a marked effect upon the schools in the surrounding region. We ought to make use of the preparatory departments of these colleges in fitting teachers. There are in Iowa several private normal schools which carry a two years' course only, and which by arrangements with school officials control the work in the public schools so as to afford the necessary practice in school work. Why should not the state give them material encouragement, if they conform their course of study to the requirements of the state department of instruction and open their work to state inspection? New York, with her system of training schools, claims to be making progress in the direction of preparing teachers for the ungraded schools. These classes are supported by the state, but the amount received depends upon the character of the work done as tested by the final examination. Although New York has exceptional facilities for this work, in a large number of old and well-established academies, there are some features of the plan which are worth consideration in other states.
4. The establishment of small normal schools at moderate expense as fast as possible in different places in the state. Care must be taken that such schools do not take on the name of college, or ape the airs of the university, and that the course of study does not become top-heavy. They must be kept down to the specific work of fitting the country teacher for her work in the country school.
The objective point to be aimed at in each of these plans is to bring at least a modicum of professional training to the doors of the teachers in the ungraded schools. When this is done we can hut the schoolroom door in the face of the untrained teacher.
The committee reach these conclusions:
It should be either the township or the county, as the civil organization of the state may determine.
2. Every community should be required to raise a certain sum for the support of their schools as prerequisite for receiving their share of public money. A certain definite sum should be appropriated to each school out of the state funds, and the remainder should be divided pro rata, in accordance with the actual attendance as shown by the certified records of the preceding year, with a discrimination in favor of townships most willing to tax themselves for school purposes.
3. The unit of organization should be the township, unless, as in some of the newer states, the civil unit may render the county preferable. In no case should it be the district.
4. The weakness of the rural schools is in the want of skilled teaching. Therefore, it is the duty, as it is for the interest, of the state to foster and encourage all available means of bringing normal instruction to the doors of the teachers, with a view of rendering it feasible to require some degree of special preparation for the work from every candidate who aspires to the position of teacher in the ungraded schools.
HENRY SABIN, Chairman.
[REPORTED BY GEORGE P. BROWX.)
MR. COOK.-The ungraded school is one of the unsolved educational problems. The town and city schools are working out their destiny in a vigorous and interesting way. A steady and persistent movement is noticeable all along the line. Fairly organized, reasonably well supervised, and with something, at least, in the way of schools for the preparation of their teachers, they inspire a hopeful feeling in those who are studying them with any care.
The ungraded school, however, is not so happily conditioned. In many of the states—and in the older ones, too-these schools cannot claim anything approaching careful organization. They are quite destitute of supervision. The conditions of rural life are often of such a character as to make teaching in country schools appear to be a hardship to those who have grown up in the town. It follows that such fields of work are not regarded as desirable. Attendance is irregular; salaries are low; the terms short; the houses are often poor and ill-equipped; boarding places are unsatisfactory and remote from the schoolhouse, which is to be reached as best it can over muddy roads.
It is not strange, then, that the ungraded schools are suffering, as perhaps no other schools are, from the ignorance and inexperience of their teachers. I believe that these unfortunate facts will not be materially changed until the district school is taken out of its isolation and made a part of the system. This is impossible in that old and outgrown district system to which so many states still cling. It seems to me that the outlook is hopeless unless we move toward the township system, or some other system which provides for a large enough unit to admit of helpful classification. Why should the country boy or girl be denied the privileges of secondary education? A system which looks toward a high school seems to me an American necessity. The existence of these schools will also permit of an extension of training schools for teachers, by utilizing such institutions for elementary pedagogical instruction,
MR. KIEHLE –The problem of the rural schools is, first, that of organization, which means the transition from the democratic, individualistic form of society, in which every man has liberty to do what pleases himself, to that of the republican, in which authority is delegated and society becomes more and more centralized. The transition is opposed by the people, and herein is the serious obstacle to the accomplishment of that which leads to the organization of a township system. In the meantime it is required that we meet present exigencies and do what we can for the improvement of schools and teachers under present and imperfect systems. To do this in Minnesota, we encourage our high schools by special appropriations of $400 to each school, upon condition that they admit, free of charge, all properly qualified graduates from the common schools of the country about. Besides this, we have a system of summer schools, one month each, about fifty in number, which furnish instruction for about 5,000 of our teachers. For the common schools themselves, provision is made by which as many of the schools as are able to meet the conditions required, in improved teaching and longer terms, shall receive $200 each. In principle, I believe we have begun at the wrong end, and that we should have established a complete township system of schools. Barring that, I believe that we have done the best practicable thing for the improvement of our