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would be from nine to eleven years, and of the other from thirteen to fifteen years. The examination was therefore limited to classes of about those ages, and included reading, writing, spelling, geography, arithmetic, and language. As the examination was in writing, it embraced punctuation, the use of capitals, the division of words into syllables, and the general appearance of the exercise.
I entered upon this work early in April. The school committees welcomed me to their schools, sometimes accompanying me at a great sacrifice of their time and convenience, and sometimes simply giving to the teachers notice of my coming. The teachers also, without exception, received me cordially, though in rare instances I thought with a little fear lest another, possibly a better, way of doing some things might be suggested. I very soon saw that the examination could not be made a means of comparing the schools of one town with those of another. This arose partly from the fact that there was not time to give to the several schools precisely the same examination. The term was ten or twelve weeks in length, there were more than two hundred and fifty schools in the county, and those in the same town were often so remote from one another that only three could be visited in a day, to say nothing of examining them. Besides this, the circumstances of towns side by side are so different, that any comparison of the schools would do injustice to one or both of them. Indeed, the circumstances in different parts of the same town are sometimes so unlike as to prevent any just comparison. I have found two schools in the same town, called by the same name, high or grammar, as the case might be, - one in a village a hundred years old, with no foreign population, with an established order of things; and the other in a manufacturing village hardly a hundred months old, where a majority of the people were foreigners, where the mass of the children were not only of foreign parentage, but were themselves foreign born, who heard no word of English spoken in their homes, and who, when they came to school, could not speak or understand a word of English. With the rapid growth of the village, and the great demand for operatives for the mills, children enough for a school are brought in in a single day; but a schoolhouse, be the town ever so ready and willing, - a schoolhouse cannot be built in a day. Accordingly, I found two teachers occupying halls, not built for school purposes, each with twice as many pupils as teachers ought to have, most of them of the class above referred to, each struggling under difficulties that seemed well-nigh insurmountable. What justice can there be in comparing the schools in the one village with those in the other? In their own town the reasons for the differences would be understood; but such a comparison between different towns would be misleading.
I was also convinced that in many instances the examination furnished me no proper means of estimating the value of a teacher's work. Again and again it was said to me, especially if the questions were not well answered, “ I am not responsible for the ignorance of these children: I have been with them but a week;” and occasionally, though not as frequently, when the results were better, “I am not to have the credit for this: I have been in the school but a few days.” This state of things seems to be inseparable from the country schools ; for these frequent changes will exist so long as better teachers can find more remunerative positions, and poor teachers, and persons without experience, can be found to take the places made vacant.
Moreover, no comparison of the efficiency of the different boards of school committees will be just and reasonable that does not take into account the peculiar circumstances of each. We find one board in a village, each member in the immediate vicinity of every other. They can, without trouble, come together to discuss,matters pertaining to their schools. Some of them are professional men. Ten or fifteen teachers are within call, and it is easy for the school committee to confer with them, gain information relative to their schools, and receive suggestions. But another board is in a farming town, the members themselves farmers. They are each two or three miles from any other, and the same distance from all the schools save the one in the district in which each lives. They serve, not because they think themselves qualified, but because they belong to one of the two great classes into which some one has divided society,
- the one composed of those “ who will serve on committees" because “somebody must,” rather than to that other class “ who will not serve on committees” because “somebody will.” They are men of good intellects, faithful and conscientious, and they seek to do, and do, the best they can; but what the one board can do with ease, the other does with difficulty.
The examination, then, can do little more than give a general idea of the condition of the schools examined; and whether that condition is satisfactory or unsatisfactory, whether those responsible for it ought to be praised or censured, must be determined by the circumstances. Statistics taken from the Tables found in the Report of the Board of Education,
The population of the county (census of 1880) . . . 36,000 valuation in 1881
• $15,808,509 00 appropriation for schools (raised by taxation)
$60,303 02 number of persons between five and fifteen years, May 1, 1880 . . . . . . . . .
6,458 number of schools
251 aggregate attendance, that is, the entire enrolment
7,157 average membership . . . . . . .
5,018 per cent of attendance . . . . . . .
The supervision of the schools is by the school committee, and at an expense of $2,383.20, an average of less than $9.50 for each school, of $0.369 for each person in the enumeration, and of $0.424 for each person of the average membership. The principal occupations are agriculture and manufactures. The public sentiment toward the schools is reported good, as the people are generally willing to vote what appropriation the committees ask, but does not show itself in frequent visits to the schools.
SCHOOLHOUSES. The schoolhouses in the villages are comparatively new, well located, and well furnished. The rooms are large, high-studded, heated by stoves or furnaces, furnished with means of ventilation more or less successful, with a good supply of blackboards, and with some helps of the nature of maps, globes, numeral frames, and books of reference. As these buildings are designed to accommodate several schools or classes, the rooms are not always supplied with a sufficient amount of sunshine, nor, indeed, always with sufficient light. Generally, however, the arrangements are good, and well adapted to school purposes. The houses are large enough, unless, it may be, in some manufacturing village, where the school committee with their best laid plans, and the people with a readiness to do whatever is required, cannot keep abreast with the increase of population.
There is another class of houses, built a generation or two
ago, which have been kept in such repair that they are comely and comfortable for school purposes. They were built for the district schools, when the pupils in the winter term numbered from fifty to seventy, and in the summer two-thirds of that number. However much too small they may have been for the schools then, they are large enough now, when the district that can furnish one-third or one-half the former number is fortunate and exceptional. The walls have been newly plastered, or are covered with paper; the windows with their small panes have given place to more cheerful ones; and the marks of the master's “raps official” upon his desk to keep his school in order, or upon the window-sash to call in his romping boys and girls, are obliterated; and the “jack-knife's carved initial” is “lost to sight,” though“ to memory dear,” by the introduction of new furniture. These houses have some blackboards, but not so many as are desirable, and other helps are very few. There are no special means of ventilation ; but with windows upon three sides of the room, admitting more or less fresh air, there is little annoyance from the lack of it.
There is a third class of houses, built so long ago that the 66 memory of man runneth not thereto," whose furniture, inconvenient and unsuitable at first, remains unchanged for the better, and whose appearance is in every respect disheartening. Nothing indicates advancement save what may be found in the improved methods of the teacher; and it is difficult to keep a progressive teacher in a house in such a condition and with such surroundings. There are not many such houses (at least I did not see many such); but almost every town I visited had one, — some, more than one. In these there is nothing to invite pupils, or to encourage teachers; and it is difficult to understand how parents living in comfortable homes, and loving their children, can consent that for six hours a day and five days a week, for twenty-five or thirty weeks in the year, those children shall be subject to such influences.
GROUNDS AND OUT-BUILDINGS. In many instances there are no grounds enclosed about even the better buildings, the first class mentioned. The buildings are upon the ground, it is true; but they have no grounds. There are no trees; there is no shrubbery, no ornamentation of any kind. There is nothing to please the taste, nothing to
cultivate it, nothing to suggest it. If any thing can be called the playground, it is simply the region in the vicinity of the schoolhouse. There are some exceptions; but the absence of grounds enclosed was noticeable.
But the second and third classes spoken of — the old district schoolhouses - can have no enclosures. They stand beside the highway, upon a knoll, or in an angle, or near where cross-roads meet. The road is the playground, and that may not be enclosed. The children, few in number, do not mind this: they take kindly to school and to play, and are not very fastidious.
The out-buildings, in a majority of cases, I think, are in a very bad condition. Without locks and keys, they are of necessity open to the public. Teachers cannot be held responsible for their condition unless they can control them, and even then it is a difficult matter. It is more easily done when a janitor is employed, or where there is at least one gentleman among the teachers ; but it can be done, for it has been, where there are only ladies. The school committees, or truant officers, or some official, can aid the teachers greatly, if they will keep in mind, that, as “ the way to resume specie payments was to resume," so the way to keep these buildings in order is to keep them in order, and, if any thing wrong appears, to have it made right immediately. Some of these buildings are filthy to the last degree. No lady, or gentleman for that matter, would be willing to look into them, nor is it easy to understand how any parent can be willing that his son or daughter should step into them. Some of them are so closely connected with the schoolroom as to be offensive ; some are not large enough for the number of pupils ; often they are not sufficiently screened from public gaze, nor are the apartments for the boys and girls sufficiently separated. If I owe an apology to any for speaking upon this subject, it will be found in the condition of things.
Passing now from the exterior (the school-buildings and their surroundings) to the interior (the teachers and their pupils), I will speak first of the teachers, their professional training, their experience, and their permanency, and then of the examination of the two classes I proposed to examine.
TEACHERS. Most of the teachers of the public schools of Franklin County are without professional training. From the tables making a