G. Walter Monroe.

The [Washington] lower high school, [Berkeley, California.] online

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APRIL, 1912

Reprint from "The Oak" with
some alterations and additions






The New System No Longer an Experiment.

After two years* successful experience it may now safely be said that
the "Berkeley plan" has passed beyond the experimental stage. While
there has not yet been time to determine the full value of the system, the
results already obtained are sufficient to give permanence to the present
organization, and another year will find it in full operation.

The natural division of the school work into three groups or cycles,
each of a distinctive character, has already had the effect of holding the
children in school for a longer period of time than maintained under the
old plan. According to Ayers, 60 pupils out of every 1 00 leave school
between the close of the fifth grade and the beginning ot the ninth grade.
Of the remaining 40 who enter high school, only 1 9 reach the second
year,- a loss of over 50% between the first and second high school years;
and just 1 complete the entire course. In California 2.6 on the average
enter normal schools, universities or schools of a grade beyond the high
school, and 1 .3 graduate.

A careful record has been kept of the pupils enrolled in the ninth
grade during the year 1910-11. Out of 453 who should normally be
found in the tenth grade this year, 1 1 8 are missing. Of this number 20
are repeating a part of the ninth grade work; 22 have entered schools in
other places; 17 have quit and gone to work; 3 are out on account of sick-
ness; 1 7 have entered business schools, convents or private schools; and 39
have left without giving any information as to their future intentions.

The pupils repeating work and those who have entered other schools,
cannot properly be charged against the local system. But the others, aggre-
gating 76 or 16.7 % of the total number enrolled, represent an actual loss
for which the system is responsible. There is no data available for com-
parison with previous years; and while it is quite probable the loss was less
than the average reported by Ayers, yet it is not likely that such a great
difference existed as obtains under the present plan.

It is the purpose of this paper to present a general view of the second
cycle or lower high school, but an examination of the records concerning

^fhe attendance in the lower grades would doubtless show a decrease in the
/oss of pupils at the end of the fifth grade. The fact that pupils may finish
the first cycle in another year beyond the fifth grade, has induced many of
the unstable sort to remain in school, who otherwise would have dropped
out, for the eighth grade is too far removed to offer any inducement to such
pupils as a finishing point.

Pupils who thus are persuaded to remain until the end of the sixth
grade, may develop sufficient ability and interest to enter the next cycle of
only three years. A different character of work is offered and under new
conditions and methods of presentation. These changes have much to do
with holding the pupils in school during this period, which is perhaps the
most important time in the life of the child so far as his future career is con-
cerned. Thus it may naturally be expected that some pupils will be car-
ried through the whole system, step by step, who might otherwise become
discouraged and drop out somewhere along the line.

Recently, all the parents in the lower high schools were asked to vote
on this question: "Do you favor continuing the present school system?'*
Nearly all the parents responded, and practically all voted in the affirmative.
The few negative votes came mainly from parents whose children have
been in the lower high schools but a short time. Many of the students
who have gone on into the upper high school, have voluntarily expressed
their hearty approval of the opportunities offered by the new system.

Special Advantages of the New Plan.

Several important features characterize the work of the lower high
school. The pupils have learned how to study and to apply themselves
to their daily routine of work without the teacher's constant guidance.
They require less supervision and direction, and are beginning to assume
some responsibility concerning the school and its activities. The student
body organization has developed a number of substantial leaders, and these
in turn are exerting a marked influence in producing a splendid school
spirit, a condition quite different from that which exists in the ordinary
grammar school.

In the first cycle, including the first six grades, the school is of neces-
sity directed entirely by the teachers, but in the lower high school there

should be student cooperation. The children have reached the age when
they naturally wish to assert themselves, and it is highly important that
they be allowed to exercise their own individuality under proper guidance.
Then there is a decided advantage in having together pupils of about the
same age and tendencies.

Since the ninth grade is the upper class in the school, there is oppor-
tunity for leadership among these pupils which would not be possible in
the ordinary high school where the ninth grade is the beginning class and
the members known as "Scrubs" or "Freshies." As a result of this student
responsibility, there has grown to be a feeling of friendly cooperation between
the teachers and the pupils. This close personal contact with the teacher
has produced a wholesome clas 3 attitude, and has enabled the teacher to
give individual attention where it is most needed. This has led to greater
uniformity of work, and has reduced the failures to a comparatively small

Pupils are allowed to progress as rapidly as their ability will permit.
A pupil is not required to repeat a whole term's work because of failure in
one or more subjects, but he is given the privilege of continuing his course
in all subjects successfully completed. It is also possible for a student to skip
a whole term's work, if he gives evidence of being able to fulfill the re-
quirements of the grade above. In the case of some of the more mature pu-
pils, a special course is sometimes arranged to suit their individual needs.

Cause of Failure in the Ninth Grade.

The reason so many students drop out of high school at the end of
the ninth grade or during that year, is due largely to discouragement, and
not so much to lack of ability. Students entering high school from the
eighth grade of the grammar school find themselves in an entirely different
environment. In the grammar school they had a definite course outlined for
them, and they were under the care and direction of one teacher. When
they enter high school they must select some particular course of study, and
then go from room to room to recite to as many different teachers as they
have subjects.

The various courses selected may not be adopted at all to their indi-
vidual needs, but were taken because the differences in content were not

clearly understood; and perhaps several decided to take the same course,
or it may be that some student friend in an upper class advised a particular
subject because of the personality of a certain teacher. 1 The number
enrolled in the ninth grade is apt to be large in comparison to the enrollment
in other classes, and consequently the class members receive but little atten-
tion in the beginning when help and sympathy are most needed. The stu-
dents comprising the upper classes are likely to absorb an undue amount of
the teachers' time and attention because of their familiarity with the school
and its customs. With these conditions it is not ai all surprising that so many
become discouraged aud fall by the wayside.

Under the new system these difficulties are not encountered. The
transition is gradual, and the main purpose always is to care for the indi-
vidual. The student is taken gradually from grammar school methods to
high school methods. In the beginning he has one regular teacher and a
few special teachers for manual and domestic arts, drawing, and music. In
the ninth grade he may have several teachers, but in all grades he is under
the special care of a class teacher. The student body organization gives
him self control and teaches him to assume responsibility.

While the courses in the lower high school are complete in themselves
the subjects are so arranged that the students may continue the same line of
work in the upper high school without any br^ak whatever. In fact those
who are ready to go on have their courses and programs arranged before
they enter. This condition accounts in a very large measure for the con-
tinuance in the upper high school of nearly all the class members who com-
plete the lower high school course, and remain in the city.

Pupils Taught How to Study.

Experience has shown that pupils as a rule do not know how to study,
and consequently a good part of the so called study periods is wasted. It is
true that a good many spend considerable time over their books, but
very few concentrate their attention on a subject until it is learned. Les-
sons could be mastered in half the time by proper methods of study.

For this reason the class periods for the seventh and eighth grades are
used for study as well as for recitation. During a portion of the time the


pupils are taught how to study, and when they become ninth grade pupils
they are expected to know how to employ their study periods to the best ad-
vantage. Sometimes the whole period is given to study and individual
instruction; but in general the first part of the period is given to lively
intensive class drill, and the latter part to study under the direction of
the teacher.

A few statements will show clearly the wisdom of the plai. The
students represent only one class, and they are engaged in the study of
the same subject. The work is fresh in their minds, and they are interested
in it. Individual difficulties are readily and quickly cleared up, thereby
saving the students time and discouragement.

If the period closes before the next assignment is prepared, the stu-
dent has one or two regular periods in which to finish. These study
periods, or time at home, are apt to be used to advantage, for the student
knows what he has to complete and the work is already under way.
Furthermore, the seventh grades have their own study rooms and definite
periods for study by classes.

This plan tends to produce uniformity of work and does away to a
considerable extent with the practice of keeping students after school to
get lessons. The teacher has a splendid opportunity to look out for the
weaker pupils, to determine their difficulties, and to give assistance at the
right time. Too much time is usually given to merely "hearing" recita-
tions. We need more of the laboratory method.

The schedule of exercises provides for four regular periods in the
morning, and three in the afternoon with time between each period for
class changes and relaxation. A short recess is also given about the mid-
dle of each session. The first period in the afternoon is set aside for chorus
work and for other student exercises. Every Friday at this time the whole
school assembles for student exercises. Occasionally speakers and mus-
icians from the outside are secured for thi? period, but the students them-
selves give most of the programs. These are varied, consisting of music,
reading, character sketches, current events, debates, etc. *

The course of lectures on vocational information is given at this period
also, usually on Thursdays. The Glee Club meets once a week at this hour,
and class meetings are generally held each week in the respective class

rooms. The class teachers have supervision over the class meetings. Various
topics of benefit to the class are discussed, among them being morals and
manners, school and street etiquette, dress and personal appearance. Occa-
sionally time is given to parliamentary practice and to reports of ccrrmittees
concerning school activities.

A Gradual Development Provided.

The purpose of the whole scheme in this transition period is to
produce a gradual development. The course of study is practically pre-
scribed for the seventh grade. The pupils have the privilege of electing a
foreign language at the beginning of the seventh grade if they care to do
so. They have their own class teachers for their regular work, and go to
other teachers for special subjects.

In the eighth grade there is more freedom of election of subjects, and
consequently the pupils may have more teachers during the day. Their
general study periods may be spent in part at least under other teachers
than their own class teachers, and with ninth grade pupils. However,
class rooms are used for study purposes so as to avoid having too many
pupils together at study time. This hour is one of the most valuable to
the student and every effort is employed to prevent his getting into careltss
habits of work.

The ninth grade students may elect practically all the subjects of their
courses with the exception of English, which is prescribed in all grades, and
they do not have any class time given over to study. It is expected that by
the end of the ninth year, the pupils will have their work fairly well defined,
and their habits of conduct and study so established as to conform to the
usual routine of the upper high school. It is this feature of the system
which makes it so easy for our ninth grade to take up advanced subjects
in the tenth grade, and to enter into the life and spirit of the school from
the very beginning.

Another important provision of the system makes it possible for a pupil
entering the seventh grade to complete his course and enter the University
in five years instead of six, if he arranges his work properly. This is due to
the fact that pupils may begin to earn some University credits in the seventh



grade. The seventh and eighth grade work in a foreign language will give
the pupil three of the forty five required entrance credits, and the subject
continued through the ninth grade will add three more credits. Likewise,
the eighth and ninth grade courses in drawing will satisfy the requirement
in this subject and give three units credit. Other credits may be partially
earned by seventh and eighth grade pupils in the departments of manual
and domestic arts.

A further saving of time in the system is accomplished in the first divi-
sion. The work formerly done during the first seven years is now concen-
trated into the six years composing the first cycle. The results are fully as
satisfactory as before and requires no greater effort on the part of the pu-
pils, since much time has been lost in the past in dealing with non-essentials.

The Course of Study.

All subjects are of value, but they are not of equal value to every
person. Since the aim of the lower high school is to give special
attention to the individual, it is necessary that the courses offered in
the upper grades be very largely elective.

The student, however, does not use his own judgment entirely in
making the selection of his elective work. He is given very definite
information concerning the different courses and is shown their relation to
other lines of work. His past record and tendencies are taken into account.
Whenever possible the parents are consulted as to the opportunities and
needs of the child. The pupil is not allowed in any case to select his
work definitely until after he has had an opportunity to talk the subject
over with his parents.

It does not follow that a course once selected must be completed.
This is the formative age of the pupil, a time when he is discovering his
capabilities. If, after due trial and conscientious effort, a student is not gain-
ing what he should from a certain subject, he may be allowed to drop it
and confine his attention to other things of more vital interest to him. It is
better to permit a pupil to change to something he can really do satisfac-
torily, than to make him continue to the end of the term a subject from which


he is deriving little or no benefit, and then fail him. Failures are discourag-
ing. Every time a pupil fails he is lowering his confidence in himself.

Promotions are also based upon individual capabilities and not upcn
some class standard. In fact a student may be promoted at any time if he
has the ability to do the work of a higher class, even though he does not
take all of his former course. A pupil who does not have a chance to work
somewhere near the limits of his ability, will get into bad habits of study
and of conduct.

A sort of "follow up" system is in use by which every weak or irreg-
ular pupil is looked after and advised by the principal, or by the teachers
who are closest in touch with his work. The parents are also kept informed
as to his conduct, and thus their co-operation is secured.

Content of Special Subjects.

It is not within the limits of this discussion to go into details concerning
the content of the subjects offered. In fact the subject matter of several
of the courses is in the making. It is undoubtedly true that much
time is wasted in teaching non-essentials, and for this reason the whole
course of study is being reorganized and adapted to the needs of the indi-
vidual in his life work.

A few statements will serve to give a better understanding of certain
special features of the courses of instruction. Students in the seventh grade
who do not elect a foreign language, take a course known as Extra English.
This is in addition to the regular English work, which is required of all.
This course consists of the reading both in and out of school of a well
selected list of books. Considerable attention is given in class to oral expres-
sion and to the interpretation of selected passages. Some time is spent in
writing short essays as supplementary to the regular composition work.
This course may be continued in the eighth grade.

There are many children who have acquired the habit of reading
sensational books and papers. The thoughts resulting from this reading so
occupies their minds that th^y become "dreamers" and scarcely fit for the
regular duties of home or school. They neglect their work, and seem to
have lititle or no interest in the things which all normal children enjoy.


The course in Extra English is intended for such persons, as well as
for those who wish to become familiar with our best literature. The out-
side reading is selected according to the ability and temperament of the
individual; and much practice is given the pupil by requiring him to tell in his
own words the story he has read, or to describe some character represented
in the book. The course provides for considerable reading from memovy
as well as from the printed page.

Perhaps no subject needs revision more than mathematics. All will
agree that there is much waste material and too much work in the abstract.
This course is being completely reorganized and simplified. The material
for each grade has been divided into essentials and non-essentials. The
minimum of essential work provided is less than the average class will accom-
plish. This gives opportunity to strengthen the foundation work of the
preceding term.

The course in arithmetic for the seventh grade deals with measure-
ments. "Children entering this grade have the ability to compute, but
lack the power to readapt their knowledge to a new content involving
measurement. It is the aim, therefore, to have the children of this grade
compute, from field work, maps, buildings, plans, etc., so nearly akin to
their personal experience that they are obliged to exert independence and
self reliance to attain a purpose whose worth they appreciate."

The material for the eighth grade arithmetic is furnished by conditions
of home or business life. For example, the problem for a whole term may sup-
pose a man and his wife starting out in life with a small reserve and an in-
come of say $ 1 500 per year. They propose to rent for a time, but event-
ually expect to buy a lot and build and furnish a house. The pupils them-
selves determine, as far as possible, the living expenses and how much the
man ought to lay by each month for their new home. They ascer-
tain the price of a suitable lot, the cost of the house, draw the
floor plans, and select the furniture. The members of the class go to various
business houses to get prices and to make selections, keeping in mind
always the man's income. They determine when it would be advisable to
build, and how much indebtedness, if any, should be carried on the install-
ment plan.

Other problems of similar nature are taken up in the class and many
related problems are considered.

There is real value to a course of this character and there is much
interest in the work. It is a concrete problem, and the children take
hold of it with enthusiasm.

"In the ninth grade is given such work in arithmetic, algebra, and
geometry as can be developed from and expressed in terms of the things
entering into the life of the pupil. Those who do not continue mathe-
matics will be familiar with its simplest elements. Those who continue will
have a general introduction to the work in which they will specialize later."

A school savings bank has been established mainly for the purpose of
encouraging the habit of saving. Children have small amounts given them
which they spend thoughtlessly without deriving any real benefit therefrom.
They should be taught the value of money and that it should not be spent
foolishly. It is estimated that the students in some of our largest schools
spend from five to ten dollars a day on nicknacks. The usual form of
deposit slips, pass books, checks, etc. are provided. The money received
is deposited in one of the regular savings banks, and interest is allowed at the
usual rate.

One of the most important departments in the school is the printing
office. It has become more valuable than was at first anticipated. About
forty students are connected with the department at the present time, and
they print the school paper and various announcements and circulars. Some-
times this department provides supplementary lessens in some of the regular
subjects. This work is a part of the manual training course and students
get the usual credit.

The best articles by the members of the English classes are printed
in the paper, and this furnishes an incentive to students to put forth their
best efforts. Likewise those who do well in scholarship or in some depart-
ment of school activities receive recognition through the columns of the pa-
per. But one of the most valuable uses of the printing press is the practical
work provided the classes in English. Proof sheets are distributed for cor-
rection by the students, and by this means much practice is given in spell-
ing, punctuation, construction, and general arrangement of paragraphs. Close
observation is demanded because of the competition in detecting eirors.

The course in World's Work and Pacific Coast Problems is being
developed this year. It deals with those things in which the world is


vitally interested, the activities that go to advance civilization. Such
topics as the following are considered: Conservation of natural resources,
irrigation problems, feeding and clothing the people, pure food laws,
advancement of learning, international peace movement, etc.

The opening of the Panama Canal will make the West an important
commercial section, and numerous international problems will arise. The
condition and development of the Pacific Coast countries are of particular
interest to California. The course calls for a considerable knowledge of

Foreign languages are taught almost wholly by the conversational
method. The objects in the rooms furnish subjects of conversation. Some-
times the recjtation period is turned into a social gathering, or an afternoon
tea-party to bring into use a larger vocabulary. The children are taught
to sing songs in the language, and occasionally a little play is given before
the school. As the work progresses more time is given to grammatical
construction and translation.

A course in General Science is given in the ninth grade. A study
is made of those natural phenomena that affect human life and property.
The relation of energy and matter is clearly shone by concrete examples.


Online LibraryG. Walter MonroeThe [Washington] lower high school, [Berkeley, California.] → online text (page 1 of 2)