Page images
PDF
EPUB

when the township became the unit of administration. We have state control, so far as minimum length of term, minimum salary of teachers and superintendents, building requirements, and qualifications of teachers and superintendents are concerned. We have the county unit in teachers' institutes and in some grades of teachers' certificates.

The limitations of state control have been presented and the essential features of the county unit defended. It must not be forgotten that both the county and the township are under absolute control of the state legislature, which may regulate the minutest detail of local government.

Township officials are kept accountable to the people, but they have large privileges. They cannot plead that they have failed from lack of power, for they have almost unlimited authority joined with complete responsibility. Public sentiment in favor of improved schools and pride in schools develop a good social consciousness, which is a fundamental element in efficient school administration. Then too a large part of the people of a state live in the country, and interest in local government becomes a vital part of their existence.

The township as the local unit of administration means that all the schools of the township are under the control and management of the school board chosen by the electors of the township. In Pennsylvania most boards consist of five members chosen for a term of six years. It is regarded as a high honor to be chosen school director, and the majority of the members of any school board represent a type of the most public-spirited, thoughtful citizens of the township which they serve. Can school administration be handled better than by your best citizens ? A township system of schools can have anything that is found in a good city system of schools, and in Pennsylvania, Illinois, Massachusetts, and many other states there are some of these townships. Out of sixty-seven counties in Pennsylvania, we have sixteen counties in which there are completely consolidated townships, and thirty-two counties that have partially consolidated townships.

The township school boards levy the tax, locate and build the schoolhouses, employ the teachers, and fix the wages above the minimum, elect the superintendents, adopt the textbooks, purchase the supplies and apparatus, fix the length of the term (above the required minimum), consolidate schools, establish high schools, adopt courses of study, enforce the compulsory-attendance law, and encourage pupils and teachers by personal interest and support.

While the financial necessities of a township are met in part by state appropriations, the township does not depend upon the state alone for its resources. The school board has authority to levy and assess a maximum school tax. This strikes at the very root of the matter. A sane mother will not maim her own child nor a sane school board cripple the youth of its township. Can you withdraw authority and responsibility and still retain interest ? Lack of interest means a low tax rate and inadequate support for the schools. The township unit confers the powers of educational control upon the people who are directly affected. Taxation and representation should go hand in hand.

The fine schemes which provide that the other fellow shall pay the tax have never workt. Dr. Claxton, United States Commissioner of Education, in summarizing a survey in some southern states where the county is the unit of administration, says that in many counties the cost of the courthouse and jail is greater than the total cost of all the schoolhouses in the entire county, and the average annual salary of the teacher is less than the cost of feeding a prisoner in jail.

In the county-unit system the centers of population will always control the administration, and while here and there the county may be so united industrially and socially and covered by a good system of transportation that good results may be obtained, the township as the unit of administration offers many more desirable features.

George H. Martin, for many years secretary of the State Board of Education of Massachusetts, said: “The township is in the judgment of the people of this state the only system under which public schools of a satisfactory character can be maintained."

The Superintendent of Public Instruction of Michigan says: “The township system stands for economy, economy in the time of children, in the administration of the schools, and the expenses connected therewith.”

The Superintendent of Public Instruction of West Virginia says: “This state has had a township system of administration of schools for many years. It has proved so satisfactory that there is little disposition to change it."

Among the recognized fundamental merits of the township system as the unit of local administration are the following:

1. It is conducive to greater local interest and initiative in educational matters.

2. It is more just from the standpoint of taxation. 3. It is more favorable to the adaptation of education to local needs.

4. The people are brought close together in a community of interests and take personal interest in the activities of the schools.

5. It is the best medium for the expression of the instinct and desire for local self-government.

The township unit of administration gives rural people a great opportunity to cultivate leadership and to work out the ideals of a republic in the most powerful, most important, and most useful institution within their reach-their public schools.

The profit derived from a good system of schools cannot be assest by arithmetic or proved by geometry, but we are realizing today more than at any time in the past that the capital of a country consists in the brains and the bodies of the people, especially of the youth of the nation.

What we plant in the schools today we reap in the nation tomorrow. Bismarck said, “What you want to put into the state you must first put into the schools.” He matcht his words with action and made the schoolrooms the first forts, the teachers the first lieutenants, and the textbooks the ammunition. For forty years the Germans have been teaching that might makes right in every lesson in reading, in every lesson in geography, in every lesson in history, and in every lesson in mathematics, until they are blind to everything but the god of might.

Germany has imprest this lesson—that children must be saturated with the meaning of ideals. I indulge the hope that thru our schools America may lead in world-ideals-ideals of liberty, of justice, and of righteousness. The world must be made safe for democracy, but its peace must be planted upon the tested foundation of political equality.

STIMUI

D. HOW A STATE DEPARTMENT MAY STIMULATE LOCAL

INITIATIVE AND INCREASE EFFICIENCY

GEORGE D. STRAYER, PROFESSOR OF EDUCATIONAL ADMINISTRATION,

TEACHERS COLLEGE, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY, NEW YORK, N.Y. That education is a state function has been recognized in our state constitutions and in legislative enactments. Authority with respect to the certification of teachers, the choice of textbooks, the determination of building standards, and the like has in many states been definitely located in the state department of education. But even in the most highly centralized administration of education much of the control has been vested in local boards of education, and administrative procedure has been largely determined by local administrative officers. There has been a markt tendency in recent years to create or to develop a more efficient state department of education and a more significant control of schools thru this office.

The present-day conception of a state department makes it responsible for stimulating local administrative officers and for increasing the efficiency of local school systems. It is the purpose of this paper to inquire concerning the methods of work most commonly employed by state departments, and to suggest the way in which their practice may most significantly stimulate local initiative and increase efficiency.

From the very beginning of the organization of state departments of education they have required statistical reports from local school officials. At first these reports were secured in order that funds might be distributed or apportionments made in accordance with laws which provided for such distribution or apportionment upon the basis of the statistics collected. There are many states even yet in which the collection of statistics seems to be undertaken primarily from the point of view of finding out how many pupils there are, how many teachers are employed, or how much money is spent. It is possible to assemble in annual reports statistics which have very little meaning, either for the state office or for the local administrative unit from which they are collected.

A more modern conception of the function of the state office looks upon the preparation and reporting of statistics to the central office as of importance in the study of local administrative problems. In at least three states during the past three years fairly adequate methods of reporting fiscal statistics have been instituted. Along with this improvement in the method of reporting there has gone the necessity for keeping much more adequate accounts than were formerly recorded. This is a clear case of the influence of the state office, thru its right to demand an adequate report, stimulating the local community to a significant study of its own problems.

In like manner, in some of the states significant reports with respect to the attendance, classification, and progress of children are being required. This type of report, which requires an assembling of data from the local school system involving a study of over-ageness, failures, promotion rates, elimination, and the like, requires that the local administrative officer at least be acquainted with facts which might otherwise have escaped him. It is conceivable that in still other fields the force of a state-required report may operate to stimulate careful inquiry thru the assembling of precise information by the local educational authority.

It has been customary in most states to provide some sort of an outline of work to be undertaken in the elementary schools. These courses of study have varied in their significance. In one state we find merely an outline of topics to be treated, or books to be taught. In contrast with this form of control there are in certain states manuals prepared which form a most adequate basis for an improvement in the teaching which is done, especially by the less well-trained teachers. In one state, in particular, the state office, by organizing committees of the most capable teachers and supervisory officers, has issued a series of manuals for each of the more important subjects. They have in this state covered not only the subjects commonly taught in the elementary schools, but have provided most helpful courses of study for the usual high-school subjects. In these monographs there is presented, not only the outline of work to be accomplisht, but definite plans for the development of the subject, a discussion of the purposes or aims to be accomplisht, and suggestions concerning the detail of method to be employed, as well as references which will prove helpful to the less able teachers. There is in this case an appreciation of the need for assistance by the local authority in placing before its teachers a summary of the most successful experience available in the state

an attempt, in other words, to capitalize the work of the more successful teachers and make their practice universally available.

State departments have commonly issued an annual or biennial report. In these documents there have been brought together the statistics of

[ocr errors]

education, together with descriptive material relating to the various state educational institutions and to the progress or development of the publicschool system. In recent years a number of the state departments have issued bulletins at more or less regular intervals. These documents have varied from a single large sheet issued weekly, to a bulletin of from twelve to thirty-two pages issued monthly. In these occasional reports or bulletins have appeared suggestions as to the type of successful work already under way, programs for experiments or new enterprises to be undertaken, together with educational news and reports of varying importance.

Very recently in some of the states special reports or bulletins having to do with war work have been issued. Indeed, in at least three cases the war book issued by the state department has contained literary, historical, and other materials of first-rate importance to every local school system. In many cases the mimeograph or multigraph has been used to send out letters or instructions which have kept the state department in touch with the local school systems. In this manner the state office has been able, not only to stimulate the local authority to undertake work which might otherwise have been neglected, but also to provide for a greatly increast efficiency in the local administration of schools.

The obligation of the state office for the instruction of local administrative officers has in recent years come to be recognized. In the earlier of these undertakings meetings in which the general problems of administration were discust were the rule. Often the group was miscellaneous in its composition, and the discussions of a most general sort. In recent years, in the more progressive states, conferences of groups with common experience and dealing with their common problems of administration have been organized. A conference on the measurement of the achievements of children has been held in one state both for a group of normal-school teachers and for a group of city superintendents. In another state a city superintendents' conference has been held for some years for a period of three or four days, and the most significant problems under discussion among the leaders in educational administration have been discust by speakers from without the state as well as by the most successful men in the local administrative offices. In several states meetings of county superintendents, with a discussion of the highly specialized problems of rural education, have been held. The obligation of the state department to bring to the local administrative officers the results of modern scientific study and of the most successful administrative practices is clearly recognized.

In some of our states the function of the state office in the inspection of schools has been most adequately developt. In those states in which the central authority is responsible for determining the standing of local high schools, the work of inspection, involving as it does the distribution of funds in support of these schools, has assumed a position of great importance. Even where inspection has been undertaken from the standpoint of

« PreviousContinue »