Page images

um on the punctual and regular attendance of children, and the liberality of school districts.

6. The want of any adequate provision for the training of young men and young women, for the delicate and arduous labors and responsibilities of teachers, as well as of opportunities for their subsequent and continued improvement as individual teachers, and as a profession.

Provision for the establishment of Teachers' Institutes and a Normal School, as parts of the school system, would be one of the most direct and efficient steps to supply this want in the old law. An advance has been made in the right direction, by making it the duty of the Commissioner of Public Schools to establish these means for the training and improvement of teachers, as early as the co-operation of the friends of education, or of the Legislature will enable him to do so.

7. The absence of an effectual system of inspection and supervision, by which the examination of teachers shall be made by those competent to judge of their qualifications, and the visitation of schools, by those who can conduct an examination in the different studies pursued, and suggest such improvements and modifications in the course of instruction, books, methods and discipline, as will enable the scholars and the community to derive the greatest amount of benefit from the schools.

This radical defect in the old law, so far as the examination of teachers is concerned, is remedied by making it illegal for any person to teach a school, supported in part or entirely by public money, without having been found qualified in respect to moral character, literary attainments, and ability to govern and instruct children; which shall be evidenced by a certificate signed either, 1. by the chairman of the school committee of the town, in case the examination shall have been conducted by the whole board; 2. by the sub-committee, appointed for this purpose ; 3. by a county inspector, or 4. by the State Commissioner. In reference to the visitation of schools, the new law provides that the schools of a district shall be visited twice during each term of schooling, by the trustees of the district; the schools of a town, by one or more of the committee of the town, twice during each term of schooling; the schools of a county, by the inspectors appointed by the State Commissioner, and by the Commissioner himself, from time to time. To secure the utmost efficiency in these agencies of supervision, provision should have been made for a moderate compensation to each class of officers, for the time devoted to the discharge of their respective duties.

8. The want of suitable provisions for securing a uniformity of text-books in all the schools of the same town, or the same section of the State.

[ocr errors]

This defect is obviated in the new law, by making it the duty of the town committee to adopt all suitable regulations with regard to books, and of the State Commissioner to recommend the best text books, and secure as far as practicable a uniformity in the schools of the same town.

9. The absence of any provision to prevent the waste of the money of the State and the town, by being spent on a school taught in a small, badly located, unventilated, imperfectly warmed, and inconveniently constructed school-house; and to save innocent children from the discomforts, and injury, bodily, mental and moral, of such structures.

Under the new Act, school districts are clothed with all the necessary powers to secure suitable school-house accommodations, provided the plans for the same are approved by the committee of the town, or the State Commissioner; and no district can be entitled to its proportion of the school money, in the treasury of the town, unless the public school of the district has been kept in a school-house approved by the committee. In addition to these provisions, it is made the duty of the Commissioner, by special resolution, to prepare and make known plans for the location, construction and internal arrangement of schoolhouses, suitable for large and small districts, and for schools of different grades.

10. The want of some tribunal for the cheap, speedy, and amicable, if possible, but in all cases, final, adjustment of all controversies arising among the inhabitants, teachers, and officers of any district or town, growing out of the operation of laws relating to public schools, before such controversies have injured, if not broken up, the school, and ripened into bitter neighborhood feuds, to be transmitted from one generation to another.

In the new Act it is made the duty of the Commissioner of Public Schools to decide without appeal and without cost to the parties, all controversies and disputes which may be submitted io him for settlement and decision; and his decision in any case brought before him by any person conceiving himself aggrieved in consequence of any decision made by a school district, or the committee of any town, or by a county inspector, when approved by any judge of the Supreme Court, is made final and conclusive.

11. The want of provision for the uniform and efficient administration of all general laws in every town and district of the State, with the exercise of a liberal discretionary power, on equitable principles, in all cases which cannot be anticipated or safely provided for under a general rule; with a check upon any permanent and extensive abuse of such power by a record of

every thing done or advised under it, and frequent and full accountability to the source from which it is derived.

That part of the new Act which relates to the supervision of the State through the action of the Commissioner of Public Schools, is intended to supply this deficiency.

12. The want of any permanent and efficient provision for securing progress in the schools, and the legislation respecting them, by keeping the legislature and the people informed of all general as well as local defects and improvements, and the best means by which the former might be remedied, and the latter extended ; and at the same time, an inquiring, intelligent and active interest in all that relates to the advancement of public schools, and popular education, awakened in parents, teachers, school committees, and the public generally.

As the source of all thorough and permanent improvement in the school, the district, town, state and the law, provision is made in the new Act, to keep teachers, parents, school officers, and the Legislature advised accurately and frequently of the condition of the schools, and the best plans for their improvement. Every teacher must keep a register, open at all times to parents and school officers; which will be so arranged as to embrace all the important facts in the condition of his school.

The trustees of every district must make a return annually to the school committee of the town, embracing the main facts contained in the register of the teacher, and such other particulars as they are familiar with. The school committee of each town must make to the town, an annual report of their own doings, and the condition and plans for the improvement of the schools, which, unless printed, must be read in open town meeting; and a return to the State Commissioner in matter and form as shall be prescribed by him. The county inspectors must report to the Commissioner, the results of their observation in the schools ; and the Commissioner, from these sources of information, and from his own observation and experience, must submit an annual report to the Legislature.

To this summary of defects in the laws relating to public schools as they were, and of the provisions incorporated into the new Act to remedy them, I will add a brief outline of the system as at present organized, before passing to a consideration of the condition of the schools themselves, and of plans for their improvement.

II. Outline of the system of Public Schools as at present organized.

The system rests on the broad foundation of a great public interest, to the support of which the entire property of the State contributes; in whose administration every inhabitant, who has any voice in public affairs, is recognized ; and to a participation in whose benefits, every child is entitled as a right, no matter how poor or desolate that child may be.

Organization. 1. The State being a principal contributor to the support of the public schools, is recognized as imposing certain conditions on such towns as wish to share of its bounty, and as exercising a general supervision of such schools as may be supported to any extent out of its appropriation. 2. Towns are clothed with all the powers of taxation and supervision necessary to enable them to share in the appropriation out of the general treasury, and to establish and maintain a sufficient number of public schools of different grades, at convenient locations, for all the children residing within their respective limits, subject to the general supervision of the State. 3. School districts, or the inhabitants of territorial subdivisions of a town, when regularly constituted and authorized by a vote of the town for this purpose, have the management of the school or schools within their respective limits, subject to the general regulation of the State, and the special regulation of the town.

In every secondary or grammar school, which two or more primary school districts may by a concurrent vote establish for ihe older and more advanced children of such districts, the teacher must have a certificate of qualification signed by a county inspector or the State Commissioner.

Support. The expenses of the system are met as follows: 1. The State appropriates annually from a fund set apart for this purpose, and out of the general treasury, the sum of twenty-five thousand dollars, or about one dollar for every child between the ages of four and sixteen, for the payment of teachers' wages, in the several towns and cities. 2. Each town must raise by tax a sum equal to at least one-third of its distributive share of the state appropriation, and may raise a larger amount. The avails of the registry tax in each town, are set apart by law for the support of schools. 3. Each district must provide its own school-house, appendages and fuel, unless the same is provided by the town, and may by vote raise money by tax on the property of the district, or by rate-bills for tuition payable by the parents of the scholars, towards the compensation of teachers. 4. Every parent or guardian of children at school, must provide books, stationery, &c. unless the district or town votes to supply the same,

Grades of Schools. The law admits of the establishment of schools of different grades, to meet the educational wants of different districts and towns-providing however that even in the lowest grade of schools, a teacher shall be employed qual. ified to teach the English language, arithmetic, penmanship, and the rudiments of geography and writing.

Teachers. No person can teach a public school without having a certificate -- which shall be the evidence of good moral character, literary attainments, and ability to govern and instruct children-signed 1. by the chairman of the school committee, if the examination is conducted by the whole board; or 2. by the sub-committee, in case one or more of the committee are appointed for this purpose ; 3. by one of the county inspectors; 4. by the Commissioner of Public Schools. Á certificate signed by the chairman, or sub-committee, of the school committee of a town, is valid for one year from the date thereof, in that town; if signed by a county inspector, it is valid for two years from its date in any town in that county; and if signed by the Commissioner of Public Schools, is valid for three years in any town in the state. Any certificate can be annulled by the authority from which it emanated, or by the officer charged with a wider supervision. To enable young men and young women to qualify themselves for the office of teaching, it is made the duty of the State Commissioner to establish Teachers' Institutes, and a State Normal School, and by public addresses and personal communication with teachers, to diffuse a knowledge of existing defects, and desirable improvements in the government and instruction of schools.

Studies, Books, fc. All which relates to the classification of schools, course of study, books, apparatus, methods of teaching, discipline, &c. is left to the action of the towns, through the committee appointed by a majority of the legal voters, subject directly only to a few general regulations on the part of the State, intended to protect the children from immoral and unqualified teachers, and indirectly to such modifications as the State Commissioner and county inspectors can effect by recommendations and suggestions in their annual reports, and other communications on the condition and improvement of schools, which teachers, committees, districts and towns are at liberty to adopt or reject. To this should be added the influence which Teachers’ Institutes and a State Normal School, when established, must necessarily exert on the classification, instruction and discipline of the schools.

Length of School. The shortest term that a public school can be taught, is fixed at four months; and this length of time, it is believed, the weakest district in the State can reach, through its share of the State and Town appropriation.

Supervision. Beginning at the lowest series of officers, there are, i. Trustees of School Districts. Each district, when au

« PreviousContinue »