Amazing articles on just about every subject...

Schools - Recent Tendencies

( Originally Published 1907 )

THE study of the more recent tendencies in our secondary education, leads us, almost before we are aware, into a consideration of our present educational status. In the chapters which follow, as in that just finished, the history of movements is mingled freely with accounts of present-day conditions. So enormous is the mass of facts which presents itself for review in this place that only a very superficial and selective survey can be taken.

In general, we may say that the later movements have been mainly directed toward the better adjustment of our secondary schools (a) to schools above them and below; (b) to the changing needs of American life ; and (c) to the individual capacities of the students found in those schools.

These movements have been dominated by the American aspiration after completeness and consecutiveness in the organization of educational institutions ; by the determination, that is, that there shall be no cul-de-sac in the educational systems of the republic, but that instead every child, to the remotest district of our land, shall find the humble school of his neighborhood opening up into the higher schools, and so on up into the highest universities. This aspiration has led to some incongruities. Nevertheless, there is in it a lofty idealism and an inspiring greatness of purpose. We may justly regard it as one of the great, formative influences at work in the making of the American character.

In our public school systems the gap which has been bridged with the greatest difficulty is that between the high schools and the colleges. The high schools were, as has been shown, an outgrowth of the elementary schools. Their relations with the schools below them have presented serious problems, which have called forth much discussion and made readjustment necessary; and the end of all this surely is not yet. But the relations of the high schools with the colleges have been different, and very much more difficult.

We take for our point of departure the period of the Civil War, or let us say a time not far from the middle of the nineteenth century. In the most of the leading states of the east, the chief, or indeed the only, provision for higher education was in institutions managed by private corporations. In many of the newer states there were growing up universities under full state control. The growth of state universities was greatly accelerated by grants of land made under the Morrill act of 1862. But these universities were supported out of funds separate from those devoted to the common schools, and were controlled by separate administrative boards. The requirements for admission to higher institutions of either sort were determined by the college faculties, with only incidental reference to the purely educational problems confronting the secondary schools. The fitness of candidates for admission was determined by an examination, conducted at the college, by college instructors, and covering the requirements which the college had prescribed.

This system, to be sure, possessed great advantages. It compelled every school which would prepare students for a given college to come up to a definite scholastic standard imposed upon it from without. It exercised no authority over the schools, but exerted an influence which a preparatory school could not escape. Besides, the standard set for classes preparing for college had an indirect influence on classes in the same school which were pursuing other lines of study. So the most powerful single agency affecting the course and the methods of instruction in the better secondary schools was for many years the entrance examinations of the several colleges.

But there were evils attendant upon this system. When the excellence of a four-year course of school instruction was tested by a single examination at the end of the course ; this examination being conducted by the instructors in an-other, and often a remote institution, with sole reference to the plans and purposes of that institution ; it was inevitable that the lower school should become merely tributary in all essential particulars to the higher. The college examination was the chief end and aim of much of the work in the best courses offered by our secondary schools. There appeared a marked tendency to substitute a cramming process for real educational procedure. Teachers in secondary schools were too largely turned aside from the independent investigation of the essential problems of secondary education, to more petty inquiries as to the exact nature of the entrance examinations at certain colleges. It is clear that such a state of things did not answer to the organic continuity of instruction which American social conditions seemed to demand ; yet with all of the efforts at improvement put forth in recent years it has even now been remedied only in part.

A change was, however, slowly coming over the entrance requirements of our colleges. Up to the time of the Civil War, eight " subjects " had found a place in the requirements of different institutions for admission to the regular, classical course, leading to the degree of Bachelor of Arts. These subjects were Latin, Greek, arithmetic, geography, English grammar, algebra, geometry, and ancient history. Within the short space of six years, six new subjects were added to this list. These new subjects are enumerated as follows, with the time and the institution at which each made its first appearance :

Modern history (United States), Michigan 1869
Physical geography, Michigan and Harvard 1870
English composition, Princeton 1870
Physical science, Harvard 1872
English literature 1874
Modern (foreign) language, Harvard 1875

Another and more extensive change affecting admission requirements was the framing of alternative courses by the colleges, parallel with the classical course, and leading to some other baccalaureate than that in arts. A few scattered experiments with such parallel courses were made before the year 1850, but it was in the third quarter of the nineteenth century that this movement first became general. The following table is intended to show when such courses were first offered, in some prominent institutions, as leading to an academic degree, and takes no account of those subsidiary courses which were sometimes offered with no promise of a degree attached. In each of the cases here indicated, the degree was either that of Bachelor of Philosophy or that of Bachelor of Science :

Brown, 1851, Ph.B. Michigan, 1853, B.S.
Harvard (Lawrence), 1851, B.S. Columbia, 1864, Ph.B.
Yale (Sheffield), 1852, Ph.B. Cornell, 1868, Ph.B., B.S.
Dartmouth, 1852, B.S. Amherst, 1872, B.S.
Rochester, 1852, B.S. Princeton, 1873, B.S.

The requirements for admission to these courses generally omitted Greek, and included in its stead some other subject or subjects from the " modern " side. As time has gone on, these requirements have become much more flexible. Such changes not only tended to the broadening out of the standard, classical course in the secondary schools, but they opened up also the prospect of college education to those who were pursuing other courses than the classical. The range of direct college influence in the schools became accordingly greater.

If the high schools had kept to the purpose originally proposed for the English Classical School at Boston, they would not have been affected by the earlier changes in college admission requirements. But the high schools gravitated toward the colleges, as the academies had done before them. None of the many protests raised against this movement could check it for any length of time. It was, in fact, a thoroughly American movement. It answered to that broad, American logic which maintained that since any youth might rise to the highest offices, every youth should have the opportunity offered to him of rising to the highest education.

The high schools, too, like the early academies, have exercised some little influence on the colleges. There can be no doubt that, at a later period, college entrance requirements were somewhat modified by the desire of the higher institutions to meet the secondary schools half-way.

The problem as it presented itself to those who laid the general interests of education to heart was this : How might a more vital relationship be established between the secondary schools and the colleges, with a view to conserving the highest educational efficiency of both institutions ? One of the earliest and most notable attempts at its solution is the so-called accrediting system, introduced by the University of Michigan in 1871. Under this arrangement, a university admits to its freshman class without examination, such graduates of approved secondary schools as are especially recommended for that purpose by the principals of those schools. The system has met with great favor and has had widespread application. The United States Commissioner of Education reported in 1896 that there were then 42 state universities and agricultural and mechanical colleges, and about 150 other institutions in which it had been adopted.

It depends upon a purely voluntary agreement between the secondary schools and the higher institutions. The college or university satisfies itself that the secondary school applying for such recognition is properly taught. Usually a committee of the faculty is sent to inspect the school, and the school agrees to submit itself to such inspection. Commonly, too, students admitted on school credentials are understood to be on probation during the first term of their college course. It is the school rather than the individual that is examined ; and the inquiry relates chiefly to the vitality, intelligence, and general effectiveness of the instruction.

Hardly any two institutions follow exactly the same method in the practice of accrediting schools. The Michigan system provided for inspection of each school by a committee of the faculty, consisting of one or two members. On a favorable report from this committee the school was accredited for one, two, or three years according to the degree of established excellence which it presented. With the spread of the system to other institutions, it has differentiated on the one hand in the direction of a more frequent and thorough-going inspection of schools, and on the other hand in the direction of less thorough inspection or none at all. Perhaps the lowest outcome of this differentiation is represented by the announcement of the authorities of one college that " Students bearing the personal certificates of a former teacher, concerning studies satisfactorily completed, will be given credit for the work they have done."

On the other hand, the highest grade of efficiency in university inspection is found in such a system as that maintained for fifteen years or more by the University of California. Here the accrediting of schools was put under the oversight of a committee of the Academic Senate, representing the chief departments of instruction. All secondary schools within the state which applied for accrediting public high schools, private schools, and institutions under corporate or ecclesiastical management were visited each year under the direction of this committee by several members of the teaching force of the university. A given school was commonly so visited and inspected in the course of each year by instructors from each of the university departments of English, Latin, history, mathematics, and physics. In some instances the departments of Greek, modern languages, chemistry, and the biological sciences, or any one or more of them, were added to the list. In other cases the visitor from the department of English, for example, under a special arrangement, examined the school for the Latin department; and other economical combinations were made from time to time. The heads of departments visited many schools in person; university instructors of various subordinate grades shared in this labor; but so far as possible the assignment to such duty was limited to persons of considerable scholastic experience, and experience as a teacher in secondary schools was regarded as a qualification of no small importance. The men who went out for the purpose of such visitation were at the time engaged in ordinary university instruction. The loss to their classes from the interruptions to continuous work caused by their occasional absence, was minimized by various devices. The expense of the visitation was borne by the university.

The California plan has undergone some little modification within the past two years, in the direction of simpler and more economical administration. Yet the account given above represents, in the main, the system as it is still in operation. Under this system a school may be "accredited" without a favorable report in all subjects ; but the report must be favorable in a sufficient number of subjects to indicate that the school is a real educational institution. Superior excellence in a single isolated department is not regarded as constituting a claim to a place on the university list.

The purpose of a well-considered accrediting system is not primarily to provide a means whereby applicants for admission to college may escape a dreaded examination. It is rather to encourage and build up real educational institutions of secondary grade. This result the system has undoubtedly tended to bring about. It has brought our schools of secondary and higher grades into closer articulation and sympathy one with another. It has tended to release the teachers in secondary schools from the domination of merely formal examination requirements, and has turned their attention to vital matters in the domain of education.

On the other hand, the system has had and still has serious disadvantages. It tends to foster a too prevalent disposition to dispense with or evade all tests of accurate scholarship. Nor does it altogether put an end to the evil of subjecting the secondary schools to tests and influences somewhat foreign to the real purposes of secondary education. The inspection cannot be so conducted that all departments of all schools shall be tried by uniform or even consistent standards of excellence. It entails, too, a heavy burden upon the higher institution : it demands large expenditures of money and of the time of university instructors.

In several institutions the drain upon the university funds and the reduction of the efficiency of instruction in university classes, consequent upon the regular inspection of schools by university professors, has been felt to be in-tolerable. And a way of escape has been found through the employment of a special inspector, who is charged with the whole or the greater part of the visitation of schools. Such a step has been taken by the parent of this system the University of Michigan. The California system, too, is in a stage of transition, and the changes which have already been made in it have greatly reduced the annual expenditure for its maintenance.

It would be hard to overestimate the good already accomplished by the accrediting system, in spite of all defects. It has given to communities a means which had been lacking, of discovering the deficiencies, and likewise the excellences, of their schools. It has greatly aided the better principals and teachers in their efforts to maintain high standards of scholarship. It has quickened the intellectual life of schools and of whole communities, by the immediate touch of university ideals. In some states, as in Missouri, it has virtually called into being a new and better and more general provision for secondary education, within a very few years. In some states, under its influence, the improvement of the teaching force in such schools has gone forward at an unprecedented rate.

We have in this system the reappearance, under a new guise, of a conception which has entered variously into educational thought and practice within the past century and a half : the conception of a body of lower schools, or at least of middle schools, under a system of university administration. The idea has kept cropping out, in different states and in different countries. If a good scheme of organization has been devised for a university ministering to the higher educational needs of a given territory, why may not the same scheme be extended advantageously to all of the public schools within that territory ? The University of the State of New York is one attempt at an answer, and the accrediting system is another.

But little need be said with reference to this question in such an account as we now have in hand. Attention should be called, however, to the practical difficulty which appears when administrative functions are devolved upon a teaching body, like that of a university. On the other hand, it is undoubtedly a function of university faculties, as President Tappan pointed out, to consider and determine, to the best of human ability, the whole range of educational ideals and processes proper to schools of every grade. It is a note-worthy fact that under the accrediting scheme great systems of inspection, of both public and private secondary schools, have grown up here without the support of one syllable of statutory enactment. In some respects the voluntary character of this arrangement has been its strength. It should be added that this voluntary system is, in some sections of the country, so reinforced already by tradition and public sentiment that the authorities of any given school find in it the force of compulsion. This is, perhaps, an unfortunate outcome of the very success which the plan has achieved.

We find in Indiana what is virtually a system of university accrediting of high schools, the administration of which has been turned over to the state board of education. In July, 1873, the board of trustees of Indiana University adopted a resolution to the effect that a certificate "from certain high schools " should entitle the bearer to admission to the freshman class of that institution. In August of the same year the state board of education adopted plans under which the high schools which were worthy of such recognition should be designated and commissioned. In 1888 the following order was passed :

" That hereafter no high school commission be granted except on a favorable report in writing, to be made to the state board of education, by some member of the state board, who shall visit the high school in question as a committee of the state board for that purpose.

" That all the high schools now in commission be visited by committees of the board as soon as may be, and that the present list be modified by the reports from such visitation.

"That in case of change of superintendent in any commissioned high school, the commission then existing shall be in force until a visitation shall be made by a committee of the state board."

The territory of the state was divided up among the members of the board for the purposes of such visitation.

By such simple steps, and without specific legal enactment, an important state system of high schools has been built up. These schools rest upon a statutory provision authorizing local school authorities to provide for the teaching, not only of the elementary branches, in English, but also of " such other branches of learning and other languages as the advancement of the pupils may require." They are sup-ported in the same manner as the elementary schools. The supervisory power of the state board of education is secured by the broad provision that "said board shall take cognizance of such questions as may arise in the practical administration of the school system not otherwise provided for, and duly consider, discuss, and determine the same."

This board consists of the governor of the state, the state superintendent of public instruction, the respective presidents of the State University, Purdue University, and the State Normal School, the school superintendents of the three largest cities in the state, all ex officio, and " three citizens of prominence actively engaged in educational work in the state, appointed by the governor." A four-year course of study for high schools, prepared by this board, is recommended for adoption by all schools which seek a place on the " commissioned high schools" list. The board announces that commissions will be granted to those high schools only which meet the following requirements :

1. The character of the work must be satisfactory;

2. The high school course must be not less than thirty months in length, counting from the end of the eighth year ;

3. The whole time of at least two teachers must be given to the high school work ;

4. The course of study must be at least a fair equivalent of that recommended by the state board.

It will be seen that this system provides for inspection of the schools only at long and irregular intervals. In practice, this defect is partially remedied by the close oversight which the universities exercise over those members of their fresh-man classes who enter on certificates from the schools.

The interest in secondary education which has grown up under this system has extended to all sections of the state. The high schools of the more populous centres are generally on the " commissioned schools " list, and this list is steadily lengthening. There is growing up, also, a large number of " township high schools " in the more sparsely settled portions of the state, and the best of these find their place among the commissioned schools.

Parallel with the later development of the accrediting system, there have grown up important voluntary associations of instructors, in which representatives of the colleges meet with representatives of the secondary schools for the discussion of topics of common interest. The parent society of this order is the New England Association of Colleges and Preparatory Schools, organized at Boston in 1885. The object of this association was declared to be, "The establishment of mutually sympathetic and helpful relations between the faculties of the colleges represented and the teachers of the preparatory schools, and the suggestion to that end of practical measures and methods of work which shall strengthen both classes of institutions by bringing them into effective harmony."

This organization grew out of a previously existing state association of secondary school teachers in Massachusetts. It in turn prompted the establishment of the Commission of Colleges in New England on Admission Examinations. This commission, formed by agreement among the several New England colleges, and possessing no authority, has by its recommendations done much to unify the requirements for college matriculation. Its most notable achievement has been the mapping out of requirements in the English language and literature. It has made important recommendations also with reference to courses in the ancient classics and modern languages.

The example of New England has been followed by other sections of the country. The Association of Colleges and Preparatory Schools in the Middle States and Maryland came into existence in 1892, growing out of the College Association of Pennsylvania, established five years earlier. The North Central Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools was formed at Evanston, Illinois, in 1895 ; and the Association of Colleges and Preparatory Schools of the South-ern States, at Atlanta, Georgia, later in the same year. State organizations somewhat similar in character are found in a number of the states, as in New York, Ohio, Tennessee, Colorado, Michigan, both Dakotas, and California. These various societies, through their discussions and recommendations, have exercised a vast influence upon the development of our secondary education.

One of the chief landmarks in the recent history of this grade of school is the report of the Committee on Secondary School Studies, appointed by the National Educational Association in 1892, and commonly known as the " Committee of Ten." This committee was the outcome of a movement within the National Association, looking to uniformity of college entrance requirements, and was appointed at the suggestion of President James H. Baker of the University of Colorado. Its chairman was President Eliot of Harvard University. In its membership were included the United States Commissioner of Education and some of the foremost representatives of both secondary and higher education in America. Not limiting itself to the mechanical adjustment of relations between the high school and the college, the committee proceeded to consider the problem of secondary education from an educational point of view. Nine sub-committees of ten members each, were appointed to prepare reports on the several ordinary departments of secondary school instruction, namely, Latin, Greek, English, other modern languages, mathematics, physics (with astronomy and chemistry), natural history (biology, including botany, 'zoology, and physiology), history (with civil government and political economy), and geography (physical geography, geology, and meteorology).

The Committee of Ten, having secured carefully prepared reports from its sub-committees, and having examined a large number of the courses in actual use in secondary schools, drew up a report which was published by the Bureau of Education in December, 1893. The reports of the sub-committees were incorporated in the document as issued.

In all of these discussions the distribution of the years of school life now generally followed in the educational administration of the American states is assumed as a datum; eight years being assigned to the elementary school, and the four years next following to the high school. The demand for an earlier introduction of secondary school studies is, however, reiterated by several of the sub-committees which reported to the Committee of Ten. They call attention to the disadvantage to students pursuing, for instance, the study of Latin, which results from postponing the beginnings of that study to the ninth year of the school course, when the student has already passed the most favorable time for memorizing paradigms and a strange vocabulary. The Committee of Ten, while approving strongly of these recommendations, confine their proposals to improvements in the ordinary four-year secondary course.

After discussing the principles which should guide in the framing of courses of study, the committee present four sample courses, which may be taken as illustrations of the application of those principles. These sample courses are, however, generally regarded as the least successful and significant outcome of the committee's labors. The portions of the report which represent the most mature deliberation are those which propose general principles for guidance in the forming of such courses.

The committee lay great stress on the correlation of studies in secondary schools : the unifying of many subjects into a well-knit curriculum, through the recognition of their numerous inter-relations. They endorse the unanimous recommendation of the sub-committees that the instruction in any given subject shall not be different for a student pre-paring to enter a higher institution from that for students who go no further than the high school. They make an urgent plea for more highly trained teachers. They declare against a multiplicity of " short information courses," such as have been given in many high schools in times past : a dip into one science followed by a dip into another, and no deep draught from any. Instead, they recommend that such subjects as are studied be pursued consecutively enough and extensively enough to yield that training which each is best fitted to yield. They would have continuous instruction throughout the secondary course in the four main lines of language, mathematics, history, and natural science. In particular, they recommend that in the first two years of a four-year course, each student should enter all of the principal fields of knowledge, in order that he may fairly " exhibit his quality and discover his tastes." For this reason they recommend the postponement of the beginning of Greek to the third year, in order that the student may not find himself at the bifurcation of the course into classical and Latin-scientific courses before he is ready or his advisers sufficiently informed as to his capabilities to make an intelligent choice. The committee would require in each course a maximum of twenty recitation periods a week ; but they would have five of these periods devoted to unprepared work ; and would reserve double periods for laboratory exercises whenever possible.

Within the limitations indicated above, as to continuity and extensiveness of studies in each of the broad divisions of knowledge, the committee would leave to the individual student and his advisers the largest possible freedom in the choice of studies. With reference to requirements for ad-mission to college, the committee recommend " that the colleges and scientific schools of the country should accept for admission to appropriate courses of their instruction the attainments of any youth who has passed creditably through a good secondary school course, no matter to what group of subjects he may have mainly devoted himself in the secondary school." Describing more exactly what might be considered "a good secondary school course" for this purpose, they propose that it shall consist of any group of studies from those considered by the sub-committees, " provided that the sum of the studies in each of the four years amounts to sixteen, or eighteen, or twenty periods a week, as may be thought best, and provided, further, that in each year at least four of the principal subjects presented shall have been pursued at least three periods a week, and that at least three of the subjects shall have been pursued three years or more."

This report called forth a very spirited discussion. The definite courses of study which the committee suggested have not been generally adopted; nor have college admission requirements been made uniform in the manner which it proposed. But its influence has been widespread and pervasive.

Since the early days of the academies, it has been customary in many schools to offer alternative courses, one of them classical, the other " modern." Other options have been added from time to time, so that now a large school commonly offers several parallel courses. But especially within the last twenty years, there has appeared a strong demand that instead of a choice of curriculums the students be offered a wide range of choice in particular subjects.

Several influences have combined to bring about this demand. The general adoption of an elective system in the colleges may be mentioned. School men have objected to close prescription in high schools when freedom is increasing in the higher institutions. The conviction that the secondary schools should not be merely tributary to the colleges is gaining ground. The independence of the secondary school carries with it independent responsibility for the supply of the actual educational needs of the youth attending such a school. What is good education in the high school, it is maintained, is good preparation for the higher schools: And the students in the high schools are thought to have reached the stage of differentiation of educational needs. The need of the state, moreover, which education must satisfy, is the need of full, spiritual unity underlying the utmost diversity of talent and culture. The elementary schools, with their single course of study, are conservators of spiritual unity. The secondary schools can and should serve a different purpose. Their instruction should be adapted to the cultivation of the diverse talents of the youth enrolled in them. No two students have exactly the same aptitudes ; so far as possible every student should pursue a different course of instruction from every other student. So the arguments run.

It will be seen that one tendency of this doctrine is to substitute a quantitative for a qualitative consideration of the curriculum. The most diverse subjects are held to be equivalent for the purposes of general culture, if pursued for equal periods of time under equally favorable conditions. A high school course, under this system, would consist of a fixed number of units of study, to be chosen at will from the whole number of studies taught in the school. Certain utterances of the Committee of Ten have tended to strengthen this quantitative view of the curriculum. It received early reinforcement, also, from some prominent institutions of higher instruction, as the Indiana and Leland Stanford Junior Universities. For a number of years, these institutions have stated their admission requirements for the most part in quantitative terms.

A later attempt at an adjustment of the relations of secondary schools and colleges, to the educational advantage of both, has given us the report of the Committee on College Entrance Requirements. In 1895, at the suggestion of Professor William Carey Jones, the National Educational Association, through its departments of Secondary Education and Higher Education, appointed a committee to consider the specific question of the unification of college entrance requirements. This committee, as finally constituted, consisted of fourteen members, representing the high schools and universities of different sections of the country, under the chairmanship of Dr. A. F. Nightingale, then superintendent of high schools of the city of Chicago. The first important service rendered by the committee was the preparation and publication of a table showing the actual entrance requirements of sixty-seven representative colleges, universities, and higher technical schools in the United States.

The committee's final report was presented at the meeting of the National Association in July, 1899. This report is mainly devoted to the attempt to establish " national units, or norms " in the several subjects taught in the secondary schools as preparatory to college matriculation. The fundamental problem "is to formulate courses of study in each of the several subjects of the curriculum which shall be substantially equal in value, the measure of value being both quantity and quality of work done. . . . It is not to be expected, nor is it to be desired, that all colleges should make the same entrance requirements, nor is it to be expected that all schools will have the same program of studies. What is to be desired, and what the committee hopes may become true, is that the colleges will state their entrance requirements in terms of national units, or norms, and that the schools will build up their program of studies out of units furnished by these separate courses of study." This hope is reinforced by experience with college entrance requirements in English, which have within the past few years become nearly uniform throughout the country, on the basis of the recommendations of the Commission of Colleges in New England on Admission Examinations.

In the determination of these norms, the committee received assistance from several bodies of expert scholars in the several branches of instruction. The American Philological Association proposed courses of study in Latin and Greek. The Modern Language Association of America rendered a like service with reference to the French and German languages. The American Historical Association and the Chicago Section of the American Mathematical Society reported on courses in history and mathematics. And the Department of Natural-Science Instruction of the National Educational Association presented recommendations relating to physical geography, chemistry, botany, zoology, and physics. These several supplemental papers are published in connection with the committee's report. The committee express general approval of the courses recommended in these papers, suggest some slight modifications, and offer an independent report on the subject of English. Their further recommendations are summed up in fourteen resolutions, of which the following, while not very clearly expressed, seem to be of the greatest general significance :

" I. That the principle of election be recognized in secondary schools."

"IV. That we favor a unified six-year high-school course of study beginning with the seventh grade."

" VI. That, while the committee recognizes as suitable for recommendation by the colleges for admission the several studies enumerated in this report, and while it also recognizes the principle of large liberty to the students in secondary schools, it does not believe in unlimited election, but especially emphasizes the importance of a certain number of constants in all secondary schools and in all requirements for admission to college.

" That the committee recommends that the number of constants be recognized in the following proportion, namely : four units in foreign languages (no language accepted in less than two units), two units in mathematics, two in English, one in history, and one in science."

"XII. That we recommend that any piece of work comprehended within the studies included in this report that has covered at least one year of four periods a week in a well-equipped secondary school, under competent instruction, should he considered worthy to count toward admission to college."

The committee disclaim any implication that different subjects may be regarded as educationally equivalent. " This proposition [resolution XII.]," they say, " does not involve of itself, necessarily, the idea that all subjects are of equal cultural or disciplinary value, ... yet the advantages to our educational system of the adoption of this principle will be so great as far to outweigh any incidental disadvantage which may accrue from accepting as of equal value for college purposes the more or less unequal values represented by these studies."

The first important general movement looking to an improvement of the relations between colleges and secondary schools through a reform in the conduct of entrance examinations, was inaugurated by the Association of Colleges and Preparatory Schools of the Middle States and Maryland. At the meeting of this body in December, 1899, Professor (now President) Nicholas Murray Butler read a paper in which he advocated a certain degree of uniformity in college entrance requirements, and the setting up of a common board of examiners. " It has long been my belief," said Dr. Butler, "that most of the difficulties which have attended and still attend the relations between secondary schools and colleges grow out of what may properly be called our educational atomism. Each institution plays for its own hand, and consults first what it rightly or wrongly feels to be its own peculiar interests. . . . It is my present purpose to . .. contrast with the prevailing atomistic view, what may be described as an organic or institutional view, . . . and to draw the conclusion that, when cooperation with other colleges is demonstrably in the public interest, such co-operation is a duty."

The plan of co-operation that he proposed was embodied in a set of resolutions, which were unanimously adopted by the association. This was the first of a series of steps which led to the organization, November 17, 1900, of the College Entrance Examination Board of the Middle States and Maryland. This board appointed three examiners in each of the nine principal subjects entering into college admission requirements, two of the examiners in each group being college instructors and the third a secondary school principal or teacher. These examiners prepared the questions to be set in their several subjects, and issued detailed instructions for the guidance of the readers of the answer-books of those taking the examination.

The, first examination under this arrangement was held the week beginning June 17, 1901. The questions had been sent out to various centres, at which those taking the examination might assemble. The examination accordingly took place simultaneously at sixty-seven points in the United States, and two in Europe, and was taken by a total of 973 candidates. Over forty colleges and universities, many of them outside of the territory directly represented by the examination board, declared their willingness to accept the board's examinations as satisfactory substitutes for their own, in the topics covered, and three institutions in the city of New York took the further step of dispensing with their own separate examinations.

Such an arrangement as this had been previously proposed by President Eliot, of Harvard University. It seems altogether probable that the movement thus begun in the middle states will extend to other portions of the country, and will in time do away with the separate entrance examinations of our several colleges. It involves many possible dangers, but as an improvement upon the system which exposed the secondary schools to all of the infelicities connected with separate examinations at all of the higher institutions, with their many divergences and occasional whimsicalities, it is an undertaking of very great significance.

The North Central Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools has taken action looking to the unifying of the several agencies for the inspection and accrediting of schools which are now at work in the field covered by that organization. At the suggestion of Professor S. A. Forbes, dean of the. college of science of the University of Illinois, a Commission on Accredited Schools was appointed in 1901, whose duties are enumerated as follows :

" 1. To define and describe unit courses of study in the various subjects of the high school programme, taking for the point of departure the recommendations of the National Committee of Thirteen ;

"2. To serve as a standing committee on uniformity of ad-mission requirements for the colleges and universities of the Association ;

"3. To take steps to secure uniformity in the standards and methods, and economy of labor and expense, in the work of high school inspection ;

" 4. To prepare a list of high schools within the territory of the Association which are entitled to the accredited relationship ;

" 5. To formulate and report methods and standards for the assignment of college credit for good high school work done in advance of the college entrance requirement."

This commission was constituted of representatives, in equal proportions, of the colleges and the secondary schools, about forty members in all, with Professor Harry Pratt Judson, dean of the faculties of arts, literature, and science in the University of Chicago, as its chairman. Its first report was presented at the meeting of the association at Cleveland, Ohio, in March, 1902.

In the definition and description of unit courses of study, this report follows, in the main, the Committee on College-Entrance Requirements and the College Entrance Examination Board. It recommends that college credit be allowed for certain kinds of advanced work done in secondary schools, and proposes regulations to be observed in the granting of such credit. It recommends further that the schools be adequately equipped with libraries and laboratories, and be taught by college-bred teachers, specially trained in the subjects which they teach, and not required to give instruction for more than five recitation periods a day.

Especial interest attaches to its recommendations touching the inspection of high schools. Here it is proposed :

"4. That a Board of Inspectors should be appointed by the Commission to ascertain the schools within the territory of the North Central Association which are entitled to accredited relationship.

"5. That the Commission cause to be printed and distributed to the several inspectors, for the use of high schools and academies, certain uniform blanks, with the intent to secure uniformity and to avoid duplication of work."

It is further provided that the Board of Inspectors shall present their list of recommended schools to the Commission by June first of each year, and that the Commission shall publish the list by June tenth of each year.

This report was adopted by the association, and a Board of Inspectors was constituted, consisting of Inspectors Whitney of Michigan, Brown of Iowa, Aiton of Minnesota, Brooks of Illinois, and Hoge of Missouri.

It is an important undertaking which this commission has in hand. In the words of one of the officers of the North Central Association, "It represents the attitude of the West as distinctly as the Examination Board of the Middle States represents the attitude of the East." Every-thing will depend upon the effectiveness of its system of school visitation. From the standpoint of college and university scholarship, a system of entrance examinations will probably have the advantage over the accrediting system wherever there is any lack of thoroughness in the inspection of schools.

It is fortunate that the accrediting plan and the examination plan are to have a fair trial, side by side, on a large scale, and each under a comprehensive scheme. It is fortunate, too, that both schemes as now under way make provision for co-operation between the secondary and the higher schools. It is hardly to be expected or desired that either organization should simply triumph over the other in the competition of purposes and methods. It is more likely that each will learn from the other, and from its own experience ; and that the outcome will be something better than the promoters of either enterprise have as yet proposed.

Home | More Articles | Email: