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EXAMINATION OF TEACHERS.
BY ELI T. TAPPAN.
A child is educated by everything with which it comes in contact. Every circumstance of early life, the home, the neighborhood, the games and the tasks, all have their influence. But greater than any of these is the influence of human beings, the children who are playmates, the men and women, the brothers and sisters, the father and the mother. The mother affects the education of a child more than all the combined material circumstances of life. A human soul cannot be truly educated by any instrument less noble than itself. Only by a diamond can a diamond be polished.
The work of a school is helped very much by proper material surroundings, grounds for physical exercise, houses well arranged and furnished. Pictures on the walls cultivate the taste. Music helps to soften the manners. Maps and apparatus and text books facilitate the acquisition of knowledge. It may be, as the Alexandrian schoolmaster said, there is no royal road to science, yet these material aids serve to make a good turnpike of the public highway. But all of these combined are as nothing to the value of a teacher. With no books, no apparatus, and no furniture, Pestalozzi could do good work. His very necessities led to the invention of new motives, which made education a science. A skillful teacher does good work with no material aids; an unskillful teacher does poor work with the best. No other instrument of education is so important as the master.
Much deserved attention has been given to courses of study, and there has been great discussion as to what mental food is better calculated to strengthen this or that mental faculty. Here, also, the overpowering influence of the master is apparent,-for whether the subject be botany, or an ancient classic, or pure geometry, he may cultivate elegance of expression with vigor of thought, and lead the pupil by either path to love science and to strive for scholarship.
Once all education was in the hands of the church. Experience has shown that ecclesiastical organizations are not necessarily inspired with ability to conduct schools. Many of the best schools are under their control and are wisely managed, but this is not due to any peculiar virtue in the organization. Learned men, inspired with love and skilled in the art of teaching, make the school.
At the present day the state is everywhere assuming control of the business of education. This will meet with assent as long as good schools are made; that is, as long as the best teachers are employed. It will fail and be condemned whenever teachers are employed because they are of a certain party in politics, or of a certain denomination in religion, or whenever they are appointed on any other ground than the best education of the children.
All employees of the State must either be elected by the people, or appointed by other officers. Popular election is proper for those who are to represent in some way the sovereign power, either as legislators, or as principal executive officers. Appointment is the proper way for those who are to exercise some particular professional skill. Reason and experience teach us that the people cannot exercise a wise discrimination in the election of such officers, particularly at the same time that the chief executive or legislators are chosen.
This principle applies to all school officers, whether they be superintendents, examiners, or teachers. Their work is skilled labor. The skill and knowledge required can be obtained only by education and training. The higher officers, the superintendents and the examiners, may be selected on the ground of established reputation. In practice, superintendents for county and State are usually elected, but superintendents for towns and cities are appointed by boards of education. I believe that experience is in favor of appointment,- those superintendents who have been appointed by boards of education or other responsible officers have done better work than those who have been elected by the people. Of course, the rule has exceptions. Teachers are universally appointed by a board or committee, and there is at least a pretence of examination. As the necessity of such examination is conceded, I shall proceed to speak of,- 1. Who should be examiners of teachers; 2. The object ; and, 3. The method of such examinations.
The examiner ought to be separate from the committee or board that appoints the teacher; for it is not to be expected that a board of education will be composed of experienced teachers, and certainly none others are qualified to examine candidates for admission to their profession. Nothing that teachers have to do requires so much skill as conducting an examination. The ordinary, well educated man, without experience in such work, is rarely able to make a fair measure of a candidate's knowledge of arithmetic; much less is he able to de
1 For the facts as to the laws of the several States for the examination and licensing of teachers, I am in debt to the circular recently published by the United States Commis. sioner of Education.
termine the candidate's skill in teaching the elementary branches. Even if members of the school committee were usually competent to examine teachers, the power should be in other hands. The party that employs the teacher, that makes the bargain as to salary, if he is also the examiner, is very apt to make the bargain first and the examination afterward. If the bargain suits the employer, the examination is apt to suit the examiner. Within my own observation, this has been the process, and I doubt not many have observed the same thing, it is so natural. The examiner should not only be separate from, but independent of, the board that employs the teacher. Any contract for the employment of a teacher who has not already been examined and passed, ought to be simply void. It is so ordered in some States, but this wise law may be easily evaded when the examiner is himself the employer or the employer's committee.
In all the States west or south of New York examiners are appointed for the county, and not for smaller divisions of territory; but in eight or nine States examiners may be appointed for a city or town or independent school district. In twenty-one States the county is the smallest district for examining purposes. In all the New England States the examiners are town officers, and (except in Vermont) they appear to be members of the town school committee. The geographical limit of this custom is marked. I wish we could have the results of observation made by competent persons, on this question of the size of a district for purposes of examination. My own experience is limited to the State of Ohio, where we have all kinds of districts. I have served as a city school-examiner in the largest city of the State, again as a State school-examiner, and again as a county school-examiner; also I have served as a member of a city board of education, and afterwards of a township board. My own conviction is that it would be an improvement if (except for large cities) the counties were united in groups for this purpose, usually three counties in one group. I believe that this has the approval of many of the best teachers who have given some attention to this question. The district should be large enough to make private and personal influence very improbable.
There should be at least two examiners,-better if there are three,at every examination. In overseeing the work of a class of candidates, more than one pair of eyes are needed. In weighing results. more than one judgment is needed. In eleven States the examinations are conducted by single examiners. In one of these States the State Board of Education submitted copies of the same examination papers to a large number of county superintendents, who were the
examiners, requesting each one to examine and mark the papers and return them to the State Board. This was done, and the various markings compared. It was found that examiners differed in their judgment of the same answer by fifty or sixty, or even eighty, per cent. of the maximum attainable. Much of this was doubtless due to the incompetency of some of the examiners, and perhaps also to obscurity in the statement of the question; but I have known experienced, careful examiners to differ by twenty-five per centum in their judgments. However, such difference would generally be less than ten per centum after consultation and comparison of views. My conclusion is that the plan which is followed in most States, requiring a plurality of examiners, is more like to produce just decisions.
One of the examining board should always be the superintendent under whom the teacher is expected to work. No other person is as much interested in having a fair and just examination as the superintendent. If the candidate has had charge of a school, no one is in
a as good a position to judge rightly of his ability as the skilled teacher who has inspected his labors. This principle has received the sanction of experience. In twenty-three States the superintendent of the schools of the county or town is, by law, an examiner of teachers. Also, in a great many larger towns and cities, the superintendent is one of the examiners. In many cases the good influence of this arrangement has neutralized or overcome the bad effects of district examiners for small districts. For these reasons, and in view of what appear to be the teachings of experience, I suggest that the best way to constitute a board of examiners is to have it consist of the superintendents of three contiguous districts.
Before proceeding to discuss the methods of examination it is well to consider the object. This is, primarily, to determine whether the applicant may have license to teach in a public school. “Primarily,” for the examination may be used to ascertain the relative merits of teachers in order to classify them, and assign to such his proper rank. This use of the examination is recognized in about thirty States, perhaps more. In twelve States there are three grades; in nine States there are four grades; in some States five or six; and in one State there are seven different periods of time for which certificates may be valid. Usually certificates on licenses are valid for a limited time, and the rank of the teacher is shown by the time of the certificate; but in several States certificates of two or of three grades are valid for the same time. There seems to be no prevailing method or established principle to govern the classification of teachers.
The first distinction to be made is between those who are not yet recognized as teachers by profession and those who are so recognized. There are so few professional schools for the training of teachers that it is necessary, and will be for years, to allow many to begin the work of teaching who are only on trial. In four or five States certificates of the lowest grade are valid for a less time than one year, but generally the minimum is one year; and this is the better way, for these persons are supposed to be on trial, and six months is hardly long enough for the fair trial of a beginner. Some superintendents have advised that the teacher should never be granted a second certificate for a minimum period, and in one State at least this is the law. This may be, under some circumstances, good as a general rule when one of the board of examiners is the superintendent who has overseen the work of the candidate and can testify as to its success or failure. Where this has not been done, or where the failure is doubtful, it may be proper to continue the trial. Such trial certificates need not be all of the same grade; some may be for primary work and some for higher grades. Some beginners may have the literary and scientific attainments which are needed for an assistant in highschool work.
The conclusion I arrive at is, that those who show sufficient knowl. edge may be on trial, licensed to teach for one year, and the examiners should have the power at their discretion to renew this. It might be proper to renew for several years, if the teacher shows every year some decided progress. There must be more normal schools and better ones before we can limit the trial-period to a single year. Those who show to the examiners sufficient knowledge and sufficient skill to be admitted to the profession, ought to be admitted without any limit of time.
In a majority of States certificates are issued for various numbers of years ; in two or three States even ten-year certificates are issued. There is no more reason in this than there would be in admitting a lawyer to practice at the bar for a period of ten years. I can see no more reason in a license for two years than in one for ten years. If the holder is on trial, one year is long enough, and if not on trial, there is no justification for placing a limit of time on the license. There may, however, be a limit of grade, depending on scholarship. In practice the length of time of a certificate depends almost always on the literary attainments of the teacher, and it is the result of an effort to classify teachers. But there is no justice in it.
I have known a woman, a gentlewoman, who possessed in a high degree the two essentials of a good teacher, common sense and a loving heart. Her scholarship did not reach high, but she was a good