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immediate action. This I propose to discuss, at length I refer to the topic of
COUNTY SCHOOL SUPERINTENDENOY.
The lack of a thorough and competent supervision of our schools, is a most serious defect in our school system. The district, or common schools, as they are called, suffer greatly for the want of competent teachers, but more from the lack of supervision. In no way can the deficiency of preparation, on the part of teachers, be rectified so speedily, as to place over the schools competent men, who shall have the oversight of both the schools, and the teachers. It being the duty of the County Superintendent, first to examine the teachers, and then to keep a constant watch over the schools of the County, there could be no one better prepared to remedy any defects in the schools, resulting from incompetent teachers. If any one should offer himself for examination, who was manifestly incompetent, he would be at once rejected. If any doubts should be entertained by the Superintendent, a visit or two of the school, would solve the doubt, and the remedy at once be applied.
With the present arrangement for examining teachers and supervising the schools, persons are often placed over the schools, as instructors, who are notoriously incompetent. The examinations, as conducted in a multitude of instances, is simply a form; or, perhaps, to say that it was a mere farce, would be saying what was more nearly the truth, and not unfrequently are certificates given without even the form of an examination. We are constantly receiving intelligence from different parts of the State that teachers are employed who are entirely incompetent for their work. A letter bas just come to the office, stating that for years the Inspectors of a certain township had been in the constant habit of issuing certificates without even the formality of an examination, and no examination had ever been had, except one, when one of the citizens offered his services as examiner, but even then, a certificate was. granted to one who was unable to answer & single question,
and not a single school had been visited for several years. I I fear that it is true that a thorough visitation and examination of the schools is unknown, to the larger number of the schools of the State. The present system of examining teachers, so far as the securing of competent instructors by it is concerned, is a complete failure, and the system of school supervision, 80 far as the improvement of the schools by it is concerned, is equally a failure. But these examinations and this supervision are imperatively demanded. We can never have schools suc
. cessful, in any true sense, without a constant and rigid system of supervision. It was a part of the plan, originally devised, that the schools should be constantly cared for. It was never intended that the schools should be neglected, and suffer in consequence of the neglect, as they have done, and are still suffering
The people of our cities and large towns have been led to see the folly of attempting to conduct their schools in this loose way, or of leaving them without any oversight at all. They now employ competent men to take the supervision of their schools. These men devote their entire time to the business of looking after the interests of the various schools, except those who have charge of a less number of schools; these give a part of their time to teaching some of the more advanced classes, and the remainder they devote to the various schools of the eity or town.
The benefits of this supervision are most manifest. These are seen in the order and system which prevail, instead of the confusion and disorder of former times. The improved methods of instruction also, which have been introduced into these schools, the grading of the schools, and classification of the papils, are results of this intelligent supervision. The extended courses of study, and the rapid progress of the pupils in these courses, make evident the advantages of this supervision.
The country schools cannot enjoy all of the advantages of the schools in the cities and large towns; hence every facility should be given them which may aid in the thorough prose
cution of their work. It is the conviction of the best educators, that nothing will tend to increase the efficiency of these schools so much, as a system of thorough supervision. It would be the duty of the County Superintendent to examine all the teachers. He should have the exclusive power of issding certificates of qualification, and of annulling them. It should be his duty to hold a Teachers’ Institute, & least once every year, in some central part of the county, and all the teachers should be required to attend this Institute. It should also be the duty of the Superintendent to visit all the schools of the county, that he may learn their condition, and counsel with the teachers, as to methods of teaching, to aid in properly grading the schools, in short-to be the adviser of the teachers of the county, and not only to advise with the teachers, but with the School Boards, in reference to the erection of school buildings, the choosing of sites for school-houses, and in reference to all those things necessary to secure the highest efficiency of the schools in the county.
The results of such a system of supervision are by no means a
problematical: the results are known. Most of the Northern States have either County or District Superintendents, and many of these States have had this system in operation for several years. The testimony which comes to us from all these States is that the system is entirely successful. The following statements are taken from the published Report of the State Superintendent of Wisconsin.
The Superintendent says in his first report after the first election of County Superintendents: “The Superintendents have not yet entered upon the discharge of their duties, and of course nothing is known of the practical workings of the system. I may say that I believe its prospective operation has had a healthful effect upon the teachers of the State. An increased activity in the work of self-culture is manifest, and warm friends of our educational interests are zealously laboring to prepare the way for its successful introduction. In some localities we must look for ill success. It is not to be attrib
uted to the provisions of the law itself, so much as to carelessness in the selection of the men who are to administer it." In the Report for the following year the Superintendent says: *The claims set up by the friends and advocates of the County Superintendency in its behalf were: 1, That it would secure better qualified teachers through the agency of more thorough examinations; and while it would spur the live teachers to greater activity, it would also weed out the incompetent and lazy. 2, That through institutes, lectures and associations, organized and conducted by the County Superintendents, greater interest would be awakened among the people. 3, That the schools would be made better by the supervision of men whose whole time would be devoted to the work. 4, That the missing link between the State Superintendent and the schools would thus be supplied.
“Such, in general were the claims. Have all these claims been fully met?
“ A reply to this question, must be general, covering general results. Of course there are exceptional cases. It would be strange if it were not so. Of the fifty-nine men elected by the people, some have disappointed the expectations of their friends. That there are so few cases to mourn over, is & matter of rejoicing. The system should not be judged by these exceptions. With the large majority, a sincere desire to do their duty faithfully, has prevailed, and that, too, in spite of small pecuniary compensation for their labors.
1. "In respect to the first claim, there is but one opinion The anticipations of friends have been more than realized Months before the County Superintendency went into oper&tion, there was great activity among teachers. At the first examinations held, quite a large percentage were found deficient. The better part of the rejected, animated by a noble spirit, set themselves zealously to the work of preparation for another trial. The second trial has not, in many cases, found them wanting
2. “The people have been awakened more than ever before. In nearly every County short Institutes have been held; public examinations have attracted attention, and in very many cases have been largely attended by school officers.
“The two points, above treated, are of the greatest importance. Schools depend, for their efficiency, upon the teachers and patrons, alike. The best teachers fail, when unsupported by their patrons.
3. “Upon the third point, the system has partially failed, not through any intrinsic defect, but on account of the large number of schools to be visited, within a limited time." " Although the County system has failed to meet all that was expected of it, by the people, in the matter of school visitation, it is, by far, superior, even in that particular, to the old township system. More schools have been visited; more correct knowledge of the condition of the schools has been obtained; more useful suggestions have been made, and carried into practice. The schools have felt the visits made, more sensibly, and have been profited more than ever before. A short visit from & competent officer, who has his mind full of his work, and who is well provided with practical suggestions, is worth more to the school, and the people at large, than fifty visits from a man who looks upon the exercises of the school room, because the law makes it his duty, and leaves, without a single suggestion, to either teacher or pupil.”
In the report for the following year, the Superintendent says: “The experiment of county superintendency has now been tried for two years. So far, it has been successful, beyond my most sanguine expectations. It has, of course, met with some disfavor. Nearly all that has been urged against it, is not really chargeable to the system, but to the improper administration of it, upon the part of the Superintendents generally. There has been no lack of zeal, and of patient laboring, under discouragements. Many have made noble sacrifices for the cause to which they have so truly devoted themselves. Their salaries have been small, but their purpose to raise the stand