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ANALYSIS OF THE STATISTICAL RETURNS FOR 1898
A UNIFORM SCHOOL YEAR. Diversities in Fiscal Years. — In the sixty-second report attention was called to existing diversities in the fiscal years of the several towns and cities. It was there shown that 44 towns and cities close their fiscal years on various dates in January, 74 in February, 131 in March, 6 in November, 75 in December, and 23 in months not reported. The financial statistics of the present report, that is to say, the various amounts expended for school purposes, do not, therefore, and, in the nature of the case, cannot, cover a year that is the same for all towns and cities. It answers practical purposes well enough if the grand totals show expenditures for a kind of State composite year, — an average, as it were, of 353 local and largely non-coincident years.
Diversities in School Year's. - It was also shown in the sixty-second report that 29 towns and cities close their school years at different times in January, 1 in February, 186 in March, 27 in June, 4 in November, 39 in December, and 67 in months not reported. In numerous cases the school year and the fiscal year of a town do not coincide.
A Uniform School Year desired. - While there would be certain advantages if all the towns and cities had the same fiscal year and the same school year, the latter also coinciding with the former, a uniform fiscal year is out of the question. The several fiscal years are determined by widely varying considerations, of which the schools are but a single factor. The uniformity that would serve the schools might prove vexatious for other purposes.
A uniform school year, however, is not only feasible but highly desirable. It is wanted for attendance and educational purposes only, not for fiscal purposes. The best period for the uniform year desired begins with the opening of the schools in the fall and ends with their close the following summer. It is what is popularly called the natural school year. The years or grades of a school course begin in the fall; promotions take effect then; new teachers very generally enter upon their work then ; new work by the pupils is begun then; it is the general commencement season for all that pertains to the schools. In June or July the schools close for the summer vacation; thousands graduate therefrom ; thousands more withdraw at that time; and the rest, with few exceptions, leave for good the grades in which they have worked for a year. Indeed, it is safe to say that in passing from the summer to the fall there is a change of grades or rooms or teachers, or of all combined, for more than three hundred thousand pupils. For these and other reasons the summer vacation of the schools divides the old from the new more noticeably than New Year's day itself. School statistics for a year that begins on one side of this summer vacation and ends on the other are somewhat difficult to gather with accuracy; they are especially liable to be impaired by errors of duplication. For many years past the majority of the cities have been reporting attendance data for the natural school year.
The statistics for a school year ending in June are usually collated by such cities the ensuing fall, and published in their school reports during the winter or in the early spring. They are then in shape for the annual returns, which school committees are required by law to make to the State in April. If small towns adopt the same policy, as they must if they report for the natural school year, their returns will not be so fresh as at present, but they will be as fresh as the returns have been for many years past for a large proportion of the pupils of the State. The school attendance returns for a uniform school year will necessarily lag behind the school money returns for the non-uniform fiscal years; but the two sets of returns may be safely used together in determining the cost of the schools per pupil. In changing from a local school year to the natural, it will be necessary at first to duplicate certain statistics that have already been reported.
In recommending that school returns be made for the natural school year that extends from summer vacation to summer vacation, great reliance is placed on the judgment of the local school authorities. In the case of 260 towns the superintendents of schools or the chairmen of school committees approved the proposition for the change; in the case of 67 towns, they expressed either indifference or a desire for coincidence in school and fiscal years; and in the case of 26 towns, no responses to inquiries were elicted.
The New School Census. — The school census has heretofore been taken May 1, too late for the natural school year that began the previous September, and too early for the one beginning the following September.
The school census would prove most useful, it was claimed, if taken at the opening of the schools in the fall. Accordingly the Legislature of 1898 ordered that it should be taken each year thereafter for September 1 instead of May 1, the work of the enumerators to be completed by October 1. Census books were prepared by the State Board of Education, with directions for keeping them, and sent out in August, 1899, to all the towns and cities. This census, when properly taken, furnishes the basis for the enforcement of the compulsory attendance laws during the natural school year. That is, it shows what pupils are within the compulsory age limits September 1, what pupils recorded in the census will come within those limits during the school year following September 1, and what pupils recorded in the census will emerge from those limits during the same year. The only children that might escape the attention of the school authorities are those that move into town after one census is completed and before the next is begun. The first census under the new law was taken for Sept. 1, 1899. Its data will be called for in the annual returns to be made by the school committees to the State in April, 1900. They will appear in detail in the report of the Board based on such returns, namely, the sixty-fourth report, which must be presented to the Legislature the third Wednesday in January, 1901. Meanwhile, they will appear in the local school reports. Since the census returns of the present report were obtained from the school committees in April, 1899, they are based on the census of May 1, 1898.
The following diagram is taken from the census book. It gives at a glance the age classes to be enumerated in the school census, as well as the age classes affected by the employment laws :
ILLITERATE MINORS WHO MUST ATTEND SCHOOL IN PLACES THAT MAINTAIN
AN EVENING SCHOOL.
*“In any factory, workshop, or mercantile establishment” (chapter 494, Acts of 1898).
A complete and trustworthy school census requires that there shall be a careful house-to-house canvass. When thoroughly taken it renders the following service:
1. It makes known the number of children between the ages of five and fifteen.
2. It shows how many of these children come within the compulsory school attendance ages of seven and fourteen, and who they are.
3. In comparison with the enrolment lists of the public schools on the one hand and the facts of private school attendance on the other, it enables the authorities to know how thoroughly the compulsory attendance laws of the State are obeyed.
4. It reveals, as a further result of such comparison, what cases it is the duty of the truant officers to investigate, with reference to securing their compliance with attendance laws.
5. It gives the names and number of illiterate minors over fourteen years of age.
6. It materially aids the authorities in enforcing the employment laws relating to minors.
The school census books when filled out should be retained by the school committee.
The New School Register.— A new form of school register was prepared in 1899 and sent out in season for the opening of the schools in September. Heretofore the registers have been sent out in January. The change in the time of sending them out harmonizes with other measures that have been adopted to secure attendance returns for a uniform school year.
The rules for keeping the new register were not adopted until they had received thorough consideration from numerous judges, including the association of Massachusetts school super-, intendents. In order to insure a permanent record of them they are here reproduced :
I. General Direction. — The register should be kept each session, in ink, in such a way that a final report of the membership and attendance for that session - one that shall receive no subsequent amendment whatever may be made at the close of that session.
II. Statutory Requirements. - Section 19, chapter 496, Acts of 1898, requires :
1. That the "several school teachers shall faithfully keep the