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William John Shearer.

The grading of schools; including a full explanation of a rational plan of grading online

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It requires and easily secures the self -activity on the
part of almost every child. In place of inatten-
tion, there is interested attention.

Essential Work Done Thoroughly. Under the
usual plan, pupils are not thorough in the work
passed over, though they spend far more time than
should be required to do more work well. That
they should be thorough in the essential work none
dare deny. It is time we take the blame from the
"poor teacher" and put it on the poorer method.
Under this plan, all other things are secondary to
thoroughness in the essentials. This is easily se-
cured, for teachers are not expected to take pupils
faster than they can do thorough work. It is no
longer wondered why pupils went to school so long
and knew so little when they stopped.



1<W THE GRADING OF SCHOOLS.

Provides for Daily Adjustment. In place of
having the superintendent adjust the machine
once each year to fit the convenience of superin-
tendent and principals, this plan requires daily ad-
justment by principals and teachers to suit the
needs of the pupils. While organization is neces-
sary, it should be flexible and pliant, rather than
rigid and unyielding.

The Bright and the Slow Benefited. All know
that, under the usual plan, the bright are injured
mentally and morally by being held down to the
pace of the slowest; the plodders are likewise in-
jured by being continually driven over the work
faster than they should go. Under this plan, the
brighter pupils are allowed to move forward as fast
as they can do the work thoroughly. The mental
and moral benefit resulting from this can scarcely
be overestimated, and it is, perhaps, the most valu-
able result of this plan; for it develops strong, self-
reliant workers, imbued with a new and deep inter-
est in all knowledge. It develops and fixes im-
proved mental habits, so that they become enthused
with that highest pleasure which comes from the
triumphs of the intellect. What is more impor-
tant than the development of the habits of concen-
trated attention, courageous attack of difficulties,
and of persistent, independent work? That these
habits are results of this plan of grading is amply



BENEFITS OF A RATIONAL PLAN. 165

proved to the satisfaction of those who have had
experience with the plan. They now see that pu-
pils naturally find pleasure in suitable work, espe-
cially when they find that further progress is the
reward of earnest effort.

High School Attendance Increased. On all
sides much regret is expressed that so few pupils
reach the high school. Less than two per cent get
to the highest grammar grade. Since this plan of
grading was introduced, three years ago, the
number attending the high school has more than
doubled.

Saves Time in the Recitations. Most of the time
used in the recitations is wasted by explaining what
most pupils already know. Under this plan all this
time and energy are saved. Therefore the recita-
tion periods may be shortened, with profit to all.

Xuinber Reaching Higher Grades Increased.
Statistics prove that a much larger proportion of
the pupils remain in school until the higher grades
are reached. In every grammar school of the city
there has been an increase in the proportion of pu-
pils in the higher grades the average per cent of
increase for the different districts being about
twelve. Surely this is an important matter, for in
some cities ninety per cent of the pupils do not
reach the grammar grades, and the reports show
that eighty-one per cent of all the pupils in the



166 THE GRADING OF SCHOOLS.

graded schools of this country are in the four lowest
years of a twelve years course.

Age of Pupils Entering the High School Low-
ered. All deprecate the fact that pupils entering
the high school are from one to five years older
than they should be. During the past two years
the average age of those entering the Elizabeth
high school has decreased more than one year,
while the classes about to enter will still further re-
duce this average.

Gives Encouragement to Pupils. Pupils are
greatly encouraged, for, except because of absence,
there are very few retrogressions. There are fre-
quent promotions of the best, which result in
leaving the slower ones about where they should be.
When pupils are retrograded they fall but a short
distance behind, and are generally kept in the same
room. The thoughtful reader will easily appreci-
ate the importance of this provision.

But Few Lose Time. As schools are generally
managed, if any but the very brightest fall but a
short distance behind the class, they must stumble
along at the foot of the class and lose a year, when
but a month or two back. Because of sickness, or for
some of a hundred other reasons, nearly all of the
pupils do lose time, and therefore fail to go for-
ward. Statistics gathered in different cities show
that eighty per cent of the pupils lose from one to



BENEFITS OF A RATIONAL PLAN. 167

four years; and for every one hundred pupils in
the schools examined, there had been from one hun-
dred and twenty-five to three hundred and seventy
years lost. Under this plan, if pupils fall be-
hind their class they drop into a class but a short
distance behind the one left; and as promotion may
come at any time this lost ground is easily recov-
ered. The records in Elizabeth show that, except
because of absence, very few lose any time. All
will acknowledge that it is an end to be greatly de-
sired, when the system is such that pupils lose only
the time they are absent. This system not only
makes such provision that absent pupils go forward
from* the points they were when they left, but it
makes it easy for those of ability to regain lost
ground.

Nearly All Are Promoted Regularly. But few
fail to be promoted. Those who do fail are not
discouraged, for the reasons that they know promo-
tion may come at any time and lost ground may
easily be recovered.

Ninety Per Cent Gain Time. As under the usual
plan it is almost impossible for a pupil to go to ad-
vanced work at any other than the time for regular
promotions, it is readily understood why but few
pupils gain time. Most of those who seem to do
so really lose the time later, because they have
omitted much essential work. Under this plan,



168 THE GEADTNG OF SCHOOLS.

ninety per cent of those who go through the pri-
mary grades, or farther, will gain from one to four
years. The teachers' records of several thousand
pupils show that, during the past three years,
eighty-five per cent of the pupils in Elizabeth
gained from one to twenty months' time; while
their average gain was over six months. This they
did without any urging and almost without their
knowing it.

Secures Regular Attendance. The plan makes
school a pleasant place and greatly aids in securing
regular and punctual attendance. The report of
the state superintendent shows that of all the cities
and towns in the state, Elizabeth has the best record
for regular and punctual attendance.

Lessons Prepared in School. In most schools
pupils recite nearly all of the time, and there is no
time left for the preparation of lessons in school,
where most of the lessons should be prepared. For
this reason, either the lessons are not prepared, or
they are prepared under the direction of the par-
ents, who should not have to instruct their children,
even if they are qualified to do so. With this plan
the pupils have more than one-half of their time in
school for the preparation of lessons. Thus they
may be prepared under the direction of the teacher,
who is best qualified, both by knowledge and ex-
perience, and whose duty it is to relieve the parents



BENEFITS OF A RATIONAL PLAN. 1G9

of this task. Time is provided both in the morn-
ing and afternoon for individual assistance.

Approved by Principals, Teachers and Parents.
Intelligent principals and teachers realize the weak-
ness of the usual plan. Though not in favor of
the plan at first, more than ninety per cent of the
principals and teachers who have worked under
this plan have given, in writing, their reasons for
preferring it to any other. As published, these
opinions show that the benefits to the teachers are
as many and as marked as those reaped by the pu-
pils. On all sides interested parents have ex-
pressed great satisfaction with the results obtained.

Financial Saving. As, under the usual plan,
the great majority of the pupils are forced to stop
school before they reach the grammar grades, at
first sight it seems that there may be a saving; but,
even considered in this narrow way, there is no
saving, because of the fact that most of them have
already lost as many years as they would likely
have spent in the schools. Under this plan, if pu-
pils get the same amount of education as they
would under the usual plan, they will get it in from
one to four years less time; therefore, the district
would save what it would cost to educate the pupils
for the number of years saved. For example:
The records of a certain city, noted for its schools,
show that, in the grammar grades, 35,000 pupils



170 THE GRADING OF SCHOOLS.

had lost from one to four years, with a total loss of
not less than 87,000 years. This number of years
multiplied by $40, the annual per capita cost in
that city, shows a loss on these pupils of $3,480,000.
But, at the lowest calculation, under this plan, these
pupils would have saved as much time as they lost
under the usual plan, thus saving to the city $6,-
960,000. But in this city, eighty-five per cent
of the pupils were not in the grammar grades. If
those in the lower grades were affected to the same
extent, then the usual plan of grading would result
ill a loss to the city of $39,440,000. Or, under
this plan of grading, the city would have saved
$46,400,000, if all received the same amount of
schooling as they would have under the usual plan.
But it must not be forgotten that the pupils' pro-
ductive lives would have been lengthened the num-
ber of years saved. Supposing each pupil could
have earned $100 a year, this would mean a saving
to the pupils of $201,800,000. This, added to the
saving to the city, would show a total saving to pu-
pils and city, of $248,200,000. This might be
continued further, but it is sufficient to show that,
because of the usual method of grading, there is an
appalling financial loss both to the school district
and to the pupils.



Chapter XVIIL



TESTIMONY OF PKINCIPALS AND
TEACHEKS.

While the seeming great increase in the number
of recitations led some teachers to look with dis-
favor-on the plan, before they understood it, at the
end of the first year's experience with it they not
only favored it, but ninety-four per cent of the
principals and teachers gave in writing their rea-
sons for believing this plan best for teachers and
pupils. As those considering any plan wish to
know what the teachers who have had experience
with the method think, a few of the many state-
ments are given.

While there are always some ready to object to
any change, experience in working out and put-
ting into operation this plan shows that nearly all
the opposition comes from those who have grown
to believe that the schools are for them, rather than
for the children; therefore, being more anxious to
save themselves trouble than to benefit the chil-



172 THE GRADING OF SCHOOLS.

dren, they prefer to continue in the "good old
way/' rather than make the necessary effort to get
out of the rut. Others, who are striving to break
away from the present unsatisfactory method, agree
in saying that the teachers always ready to criticise
their efforts are those who, having been ironclad in
their methods and management, now feel keenly
the truth that the effect of their methods have been
most blighting. The beneficial results of this
method to pupils and teachers have been so many
and so marked, that not only are the principals and
teachers unanimous in their hearty approval, but
parents and pupils are enthusiastic in their indorse-
ment of the method.

The following opinions as to the beneficial re-
sults of the plan were written by principals and
teachers who had had from ten to forty years' ex-
perience with the usual method. As most of these
were written at the end of the first year's trial, they
call attention only to the benefits which appear at
first. The opinions of a few principals are given,
that other principals may know that the plan is
more than satisfactory to those who are responsible
for the organization and grading of the schools.
Opinions of a few teachers of each grade are also
given, to show that this plan is just as satisfactory
in one grade as in another.



TESTIMONY OF TEACHERS. 173

OPINIONS OF PRINCIPALS.

The problem of how to reach the individual stu-
dent in the mass-teaching of the public schools, and
to advance him according to his ability without dis-
couraging those who may be less able or less ad-
vanced, appears to have been satisfactorily solved
by the system recently introduced into the public
schools of Elizabeth by their superintendent, Prof.
Shearer. The instruction is made profitable to all,
instead of benefiting only the more brilliant minds.
* * Another feature is that when a general
promotion is made the pupils are not all sent in
bulk to the next class without any discrimination
as to their relative ability, but those who can fulfill
the requirements of the higher division of that class
are placed in that division where they will meet
with their peers, and those who are less advanced
will seek their level in some other division of the
same class. * * * The most careless observer
can easily see that a personal interest and protection
for each pupil, and an equal rule of justice for all
the pupils, will be established, which has heretofore
never been attempted in public school instruction.
Elizabeth has been fortunate in secur-
ing the benefits of this system for her schools. *
Its good effects are everywhere apparent.
' A system that must inevitably be adopted
by every enlightened school board throughout the
country as soon as the merits have been fully under-
stood.

During forty years I have tried almost every
plan that any one could think of, but I found noth-



174 THE GRADING OF SCHOOLS.

ing satisfactory until I tried this plan of grading.
It not only respects the individuality of the pupil,
but it does the same for the teacher and the princi-
pal. '" * "" Every sensible person who under-
stands the system and believes the schools are for
the children, must be unalterably in favor of Super-
intendent Shearer's new system.

I am heart and hand in favor of grading, and it
certainly meets the requirements of our schools.
Many children have made more progress in their
studies than we thought possible at the outset ; but
the grading has made it possible for each child to
do according to its ability.

The system of grading is an excellent thing.
We fully believe that each individual scholar has
been benefited by the division of the classes, and
the special needs of each child have been more
closely studied and better reached.

It seems to adapt itself to all conditions of the
classroom. It affords an opportunity for each
child to seek his own level. If he is ambitious and
gifted with ability to move fasten than his less for-
tunate associates he finds himself free to go on, with
no barriers in front. If he is destined to belong to
the great "mediocrity," he will find himself in con-
genial company. It aids discipline by leaving the
least possible number unoccupied, and thus re-
moves the tremendous strain from that teacher
who attempts to hold the attention of forty-five or
fifty pupils during a long recitation. The plan
develops the individuality of the teacher, since she
is thrown more upon her own resources, and given



TESTIMONY OF TEACHERS. 175

an opportunity to think, act and adapt herself to
the character of her pupils. It offers an incentive
to the class. A lazy boy is awakened into activity
by seeing his more industrious associates quietly
and steadily slipping away from him; while a pupil
who has failed to earn promotion is encouraged, for
he knows that his failure does not throw him back
a whole year.

The system of grading meets, I believe, a long-
felt need. It cannot but be of advantage to both
teacher and pupil. Its advantages are legion. It
brings out the teacher's individuality, assists her to
better understand the ability of the pupil, makes it
possible to aid them more readily, and relieves her
from the terrible (no other word expresses it) strain
of feeling that her ability as a teacher is questioned
if every scholar does not reach the same standing.
When that fear is removed, she has all that extra
energy (and who can say that it is not a little) to
spend upon the development of the children.

Instruction is better suited to the needs of the
pupil. Consequently more satisfactory results are
likely to follow, more progress possible, and more
thoroughness. The lessons assigned can be better
adapted to the pupil's ability. There is a stronger
incentive to merit promotion to the higher divi-
sions.

It has proved very satisfactory. Every class in
the school has completed the work of the grade, and
many of the children in each class are well ad-
vanced in the work of the coming year. It has ex-
cited a healthful ambition in teachers and scholars



176 THE GRADING OF SCHOOLS.

alike. It has shown both what they could do when
allowed "to spread their wings and fly." The
slower children, by being grouped with equals, are
not discouraged by constant comparison of their
work with that of the brighter ones. They may be
among the leaders in their own division, whereas, if
trying to pursue the work of the advanced class,
they would be the laggards, and discouragement
would surely follow. Quick and slow have been
alike benefited, the latter spurred on and none re-
tarded. It gives the teacher a chance she did not
have under the old system.

OPINIONS OF TEACHERS.
First Year.

Brighter pupils are not kept waiting for their
less fortunate neighbors. It makes the majority
of pupils ambitious. It gives the teacher an op-
portunity to reach the individual pupil.

Better results can be secured when the attention
does not flag. The brighter scholars can make as
rapid progress as their mental development war-
rants. The teacher can much more rapidly find
out the weak points of the pupils, and by giving
them more individual attention can help them to
make more rapid advancement in a given time.

Under the present system of grading tke needs
of the child may be better met. The old way was
somewhat like making a square fit into a circle, or
a pint hold a quart. The pressure upon the slow
one caused him to become worried and nervous; it
made school a burden and not a pleasure. The re-



TESTIMONY OF TEACHERS. 17T

pression of the brighter ones caused them to lose
interest in the work, and, to illustrate well the old
couplet: "Satan finds some mischief still for idle
hands to do."

A child kept busy with work suited to his needs
and ability cannot fail to make progress. Under
the present system this can be done with advantage
both to teacher and scholar. Better attention can
be secured. With the small groups it is easier to
find out what each child knows.

Second Year.

It is a satisfactory solution for many of the prob-
lems that have always arisen in connection with our
present- school system generally. In my own class,
the results of the new system have fully proven its
good qualities. From the first a marked division
as to mentality was apparent, and had I been
obliged to force all to attain the same standard the
effect would have been distressing to teacher and
pupils. The system has also acted as a stimulus to
effort and results that I would not have believed
possible.

I prefer it to any other system, since it enables
the teacher to become thoroughly acquainted with
the ability and progress of every individual pupil,
and aids her in leading them on, step by step.

I know more about my pupils individually than
I did, and more time can be given for individual
help.

The children know better how they stand in the
subjects in which they are divided. The discipline



178 THE GRADING OF SCHOOLS.

in my room has improved. The attention has also
improved. Both the bright pupils and the slow
ones are helped by it.

Third Year.

It enables bright children to advance more rap-
idly. A child absent from school can take up the
work where he left off and again work his way up.
Increases emulation.

Bright pupils are not kept back. Slower pupils
are not pushed ahead. Better attention is secured.

Assists the teacher to understand, and therefore
helps each child at his weakest point. It helps
each child along as rapidly as he is capable of pro-
gressing. It develops a spirit of independence. It
accomplishes more work, with greater thorough-
ness and, therefore, better results. It makes possi-
ble frequent promotions.

The advantages of the grading system are that
the bright ones are not kert back, and the slow and
particularly lazy ones are inspired to work.

Fourth Year.

Bright pupils can advance as rapidly as they are
able. Dull pupils need not waste their time trying
to do something entirely beyond them. Recitation
periods can be shorter, and thus the interest in the
lesson more easily sustained.

Grading this way enables a teacher to work with
fewer pupils at a time. There are shorter periods
for each lesson. The teacher can secure better at-
tention and give more time to those who need more
help.



TESTIMONY OF TEACHERS. 179

Grading secures better attention. It awakens in
the pupil the desire to go ahead and keep ahead.

The grading system allows the brighter pupils to
advance rapidly, promotes their individual effort
and ambition. The slower pupils have found their
level and are stimulated to increased effort.

Fifth Year.

It gives the slow ones a place where they can
work, and thus incites greater interest; the others
can advance more rapidly because the slow ones are
not hindering them.

Better attention is obtained from a smaller class.
A smaller class gives an opportunity for more indi-
vidual assistance on part of the teacher. Brighter
pupils advance more rapidly.

The brighter pupils have a chance to advance
more rapidly. The lazy pupils become more ambi-
tious. The slow pupils are not pushed beyond
their ability, consequently make more progress.
The pupils have more time for studying during
during school hours; can be kept more busy, and
have less time for play.

Can find more exactly what each pupil can do.
Can help individuals much better than when the
class is in one large division. The children are in-
terested; the backward ones ambitious to advance
to a higher division. Scholars advance more rap-
idly and are more thorough.

Sixth Year.

It allows more time for individual work among
pupils. It allows the brighter pupils to advance



180 THE GRADING OF SCHOOLS.

more rapidly. It enables the more backward pu-
pils to more thoroughly understand their work.

The brighter pupils are not held back by the
slow ones, and therefore advance more rapidly.
The slow pupils are not made to hurry, and there-
fore make more progress. More time can be al-
lowed pupils for study during school hours.

More direct attention can be given to those who
need help in any particular thing. It allows the
brighter ones to go on faster than they otherwise
could. It improves the attention. It incites pu-
pils to study in order to be in the highest division.

I think the great advantage of the system is that
a pupil may be placed just where he can do the best
work.

Seventh Year.

The brighter pupils can accomplish more by not
waiting for the slow ones. The slow pupils are not
hurried along faster than they are able to go. The
teacher has time for individual attention and the
pupils more time for study. If a child loses les-
sons by absence he can be dropped to the lower
division and not be changed to a lower room.

There is always something for each one to try
for. I have been able to give more individual at-
tention and instruction than I otherwise could.

It has been a direct incentive to study, and has
made all more studious. Many of those suppos-
edly dull got to work and showed they had been
lazy. It has created a natural, rather than forced,
interest in lessons. It has enabled me to get



TESTIMONY OF TEACHERS. 181

nearer the individual, and to know what each one


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Online LibraryWilliam John ShearerThe grading of schools; including a full explanation of a rational plan of grading → online text (page 9 of 12)