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To say the least, there must be a strong presumption in favor of an educational measure in which all the leading nations of the world are enlisted, and which has almost the unanimous advocacy of the teaching profession, and of those public officials who are best informed as to the necessities of the case. In face of this there is everywhere acknowledged difficulty in putting a compulsory school law into force. A close study, however, of this kind of legislation will make two things apparent, both setting aside any objection to the law on the score that it cannot be enforced.
First, wherever boards of education have been empowered to employ a special officer or officers, whose business it should be under some systematic method of search and report, to find out the defaulters and get the children to school, the end contemplated by the law has been gratifyingly attained. It has been suggested that this officer be partly police and partly missionary in his function, but mostly missionary, as being more in keeping with the kind of work he has to do. And this suggestion brings us to the second most important lesson from the study we have had in hand, namely that for the ends of public well being a proximate and provisional enforcement of a compulsory school law is all that should be desired. In the language of one of our most eminent educators, Dr. Welch, compulsory education should not be reckoned of value simply to the extent to which it can be rigidly enforced, but in the main it should be prized because of the "compulsory environment" it throws round the ignorant and the dilatory, and the general public interest it arouses in the cause of education as lying also at the very heart of the national life.
In retiring from the office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, which office I have held for the past six years, I desire to return my sincere thanks to the people of Iowa for the hearty co-operation and generous treatment which I have uniformly received at their hands.
I am under deep and lasting obligations to the county superintendents with whom I have been officially associated. I leave this work with increased confidence and faith in our school system, and a firm trust and reliance in the people to guard and strengthen it, to the end that education, thorough, effectual and free, may be the heritage of all generations.
I desire to acknowledge my gratitude to Hon. Geo. H. Nichols,
who has acted as Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction during my entire administration. Also, to Mrs. Addie B. Billington, whose faithful services have been invaluable to me.
I congratulate the people of Iowa, in view of the election of Hon. Henry Sabin as my successor. It is a pleasure to transmit the trust I now hold to a man so worthy, so well fitted and qualified to receive it.
J. W. AKERS, Superintendent of Public Instruction.
REPORTS FROM COUNTY SUPERINTENDENTS.
BY M. W. HAVER.
Our schools are in a very prosperous condition, when we take into account, all the surroundings. Many of the teachers are obliged to work under difficulties, from the fact that many of the schools are not well supplied with maps, charts, globes, etc. Our teachers as a class are faithful and earnest in their work, and appear willing to receive instruction in everything pertaining to their work.
The normal institute was organized in this county in 1874, with an attendance of forty-two. Since that time it has steadily grown both in interest and members. Last spring we had an enrollment of 220.
Am seeking to better prepare the teachers for the practical every day work of the school-room.
Have tried to adopt the latest and best methods, and to secure the best iustructors.
Have divided the institute into four grades, adopted a course of study, and grant a diploma to teachers after having completed the course and passing a satisfactory examination.
Too much work of a general character has been done, without any special object in view, leaving the same work to be passed over year after year.
We have 137 frame school-houses. The buildings are all heated with stoves, but the windows of many of these are unprotected, having neither shades nor blinds. Very few of the buildings are provided with any means of ventilation except the windows. While a majority of our school-rooms are comfortable and convenient, yet quite a number lack both. Quite a number are without foundation and are not well protected.
Most all the school sites are pleasantly and conveniently located. The out-houses compare favorably with the school buildings. Where the schoolhouses are neglected, the out-houses are in the same condition. A majority of the school grounds are not fenced, although a few are well fenced and well kept.
Quite a number of trees have been set out, but on account of being unprotected, many of them have been destroyed.
The average term in this county is eight months nearly. Male teachers receive an average of $34.00, and females $30.00 per month. All the branches required by law are taught. Penmanship is taught in all the schools, but perhaps not as a special branch.
Drawing is taught in the graded schools and in quite a number of the country schools. Vocal music is taught quite successfully in many of our schools.
I have made every effort possible to have my teachers comply with the school law of 1886. In many cases the school boards have neglected to do their duty in the matter, by neglecting to adopt any text-book on the subject. If we could have a compulsory law I think it would have a tendency to improve our schools. Too many parents send their children when they have no work for them at home.
BLACK HAWK COUNTY.
There has been a marked improvement in the scholarship of our teachers during the last year, and this higher scholarship has shown itself in our schools throughout the county. A teacher who does not make daily preperation for the work he has to do cannot expect to teach a successful school. I have considered it a duty to the children and patrons to subject the teachers to a rigid examination at least once a year, unless I have had positive proof that the applicants possessed a thorough knowledge of the common branches.
These examinations have created much enthusiasm and a desire on the part of the teachers to excel unlike anything else in this county, and this enthusiasm is carried into the school-room awakening the latent powers of every child. When teachers are aware that they are not held accountable for what they do in the school-room, or that their certificates will be renewed
when the year is up, pay very little attention to study and improvement. No professsion needs more daily study and preparation than that of the teacher.
It always has been a mystery to me why so many teachers dread an examination, when in fact these very examinations make the teacher broader, more accurate, independent and self-reliant than any thing else in the teachers' profession. A teacher who has studied during the year, attends the institute, passes a thorough examination is in every way better qualified to teach a successful school than the teacher who does not study nor attend teachers' meetings or institutes, but simply has his certificate renewed before his school begins. It makes no difference how well a teacher is educated he must be a student, he must gather new material every day, he must store his mind with useful knowledge that he may interest his pupils. But where is there a place that a teacher can collect and garner more facts than in teachers' meetings and live institutes.
Every county is afflicted with these idlers and fossils whose exit every true friend of the schools would hail with delight. It is our duty to weed out these drones and antiquated teachers, and put in their place teachers who are willing to spend time and money to prepare themselves for the profession. There can be but little progress in our schools unless our teachers are scholars, and scholarship means study.
TEACHERS' NORMAL INSTITUTE.
The graded course has been adopted in the county and is giving almost universal satisfaction Teachers who hold first-class certificates, who have taught successfully for at least three years, and have attended not less than three normal institutes, are admitted to the A grade. Certificates of attendance at a normal school or normal course in any of our best colleges are accepted for normal institute attendance.
Teachers who complete the work in this grade pass an examination in all the branches with an average of 92 per cent are awarded diplomas of graduation, but in no case will a diploma be awarded unless the applicant has had three years of experience in the schoolroom. The class of 1886 numbered seven; their average age, twenty-seven; with an average experience of five years in the school-room. The class of 1887 numbered eight, the average age was twenty-five with something over four years' experience on an average. Only the best scholars can pass the rigid examinations required for promotion and graduation.
All teachers holding second class certificates, averaging not less than 86 per cent, having had two years' experience and attended not less than two normal institutes, are admitted to the B grade. Those completing the studies in this grade and passing an examination in all the branches, and making an average of 90 per cent, will receive certificates of promotion to the A grade. But in no case can a teacher pass from the B grade to the A grade unless he holds a first-class certificate with an average of not less than 90 and not below 85 in either arithmetic or grammar.