Sunday, September 27, 2015

Elsie's Music Exam


Below is a copy of Elsie Johnson's 8th grade music final from 1910, Lake County, Indiana School District.  Music is taught today as an optional elective and the course title would be either Chorus, Band or Orchestra.  Classical composers aren't usually covered, either, as "noted musicians."
The music class content is extremely basic, much like is taught in our elementary curriculum today:
This is the last document I have on Elsie's school experience.  In addition to the final exams I've published (Reading, Grammar, Math, Geography, History and Music) Elsie was tested on spelling and penmanship.
Ahh, penmanship.  In Florida, penmanship is no longer taught.  I'm sure, like many of you dear readers, you learned cursive using the Palmer method.  D'Nealian became in vogue in the 1990's as it was a transition between printing and cursive.  In the last 5 years, cursive is no longer taught in elementary in Florida.  The reasoning is that keyboarding is more important, printing is more legible, there is less time due to the increase in rigor of core courses and a student can learn cursive on their own.  It will be interesting to see if signature lines disappear from documents when the present generation reaches adulthood!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Elsie's History


Elsie Johnson was my husband's maternal grandmother.  She graduated as an 8th grader in 1910 from the Hobart Township, Lake County, Indiana school district.  With the start of a new school year I've been posting her final exams and comparing education then to now - 105 years later.
In 8th grade today in Florida, students continue to study American History.  The difference is they have a whole lot more history to learn since Elsie's day!  I was surprised to see that Elsie's test only measured through the Colonial Period.  No American Revolution, War of 1812, Civil War, Spanish American War or Reconstruction.
Perhaps the focus on the French and Indian War was due to Indiana's location.  Father Marquette and many fur traders were the earliest Europeans in Elsie's region. I was surprised that Elsie's answer to the cause of the French and Indian War was slavery.  Huh?  It wasn't marked wrong, either. My answer would have been similar to that of today's historians, "The war began because Britain felt they needed to prevent the French from gaining control over trade and territories that the British thought were rightfully theirs.1"
 I believe that tension between France and Great Britain was even the primary reason noted back in Elsie's day as I was recently reading a speech written for the American Centennial (1886) that was presented in Franklin, Pennsylvania and the author stated that the French, worried about the British moving farther west, had told local Native American tribes to distrust the settlers, thus causing attacks on homesteaders and thus began the war.
I was quite surprised to see a question (#2) regarding naming and locating 3 early colleges.  Eighth grade was the terminal year of education for most students in Indiana at the time.  Was this a way to encourage further education?  I laughed when I saw that question because that is something I currently do with my 7th and 8th graders but I require them to explore 20 colleges.  My thinking is it's never too early to start post-secondary exploration!  
On page 2 of the exam Elsie writes "god" and it wasn't corrected to show capitalization.  For awhile in the education world (early 1990's), points were taken off if English usage wasn't also correct. Clearly, the exam only measured the history curriculum.

1"The French & Indian War." Ushistory.org. Independence Hall Association, n.d. Web. 23 Sept. 2015.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Elsie's Exams - A 1910 Geography Final


Elsie Johnson was an 8th grade student in Hobart Township, Lake County, Indiana in 1910.  My past several posts have been highlighting her state mandated final exams.  Today the focus is geography.
The test questions are glued to the upper left hand corner.  It appears that 8th graders were required to complete the 7th and 8th grade year questions.  I like that as retention of material presented in the previous year can be measured.
The continents of Africa and Australia were studied extensively in 7th grade.  The 8th grade test questions were determined by the teacher; please view the third test page for those responses.  In 8th grade, students studied South America and Asia.  How interesting Europe is barely mentioned, especially since many of Elsie's generation would find themselves there in just a few years under the adverse circumstances of World War I!  I also find it odd that there is such a limited study of North America and no mention of Antarctica,
Geography is still taught in middle school today through Social Studies but recently in Florida, civics was incorporated into the 7th grade curriculum which cut out some Asia and Africa material.  Those lessons were transferred to high school.  Since Elsie terminated her education in 8th grade, she would not have learned those lessons today.
Of all the tests analyzed I have the most criticism for this one.  Question 7 hints at an answer for question 2.  Question 10 asks about tobacco.  My readers know that the dangers of tobacco use was a test question on Elsie's Physiology exam.  I equate asking where tobacco was grown to asking today's students where heroin is produced.  To test knowledge of export items I think other crops could have been selected.
My most surprising reaction was to item 9. I understand that the test was developed in 1910  but I still was shocked at asking students to classify people based on color. Was the objective to make geography "scientific" as in the world of science where one would classify species?  I don't know.
Think about this - the test was administered during the Jim Crow, 45 years after the end of the Civil War.  It took another 50 years, the 1960's, before this thought process began to change and yet we still classify students. Today, parents are asked if their children are Asian, Hispanic, Multi, Native American with Black and White remaining as options.
Genealogists know that the vast majority of our DNA is multi.  My blue eyed blonde hubby shows ancestry from Chad yet he would be classified as white.  I personally think it's time to move past the labels.  I understand in the health world nationality can be important in identying serious health conditions that need to be addressed.  Yet, looking at someone's skin tone could miss important information, such as sickle cell anemia or lack of Vitamin D absorption. Beyond health, there is no reason to be concerned with skin color.
As the world's first melting pot, I think it's time that the US moved beyond racial classification.  With the current changes taking place in Europe, I think the US needs to set this practice into a new direction. In 100 years from now what will the genealogical community say about us as a society?  





Thursday, September 17, 2015

1910 Indiana Science Test

The Back to Basics movement in the U.S. likes to emphasize the teaching of only Reading, Writing and Arithmetic as harkening back to early American education's curriculum.  By the early 1900's, however, Science, History, Geography and Music were also taught.  Today I'm going to share with you Elsie Johnson, my husband's maternal grandmother's 8th grade end of year Indiana state assessment in science. Evidently, the area of physiology was the curriculum focus.
In middle school today, physiology is a part of both science and health.  The exam questions were glued to the upper left hand corner of the exam:
Elsie's answer to question 1 about smoking is:  "Tobacco dulls the mind and it affect the beating of the heart." Wow!  I always heard that the dangers of smoking were not known until the 1960's.  I remember when cigarette television commercials were banned. The tunes were so catchy we used to play "Cigarette Tag" as children during recess.  Someone was IT and IT chased all the players.  When a player was tagged the player had to sing a commercial cigarette jingle. Jingles couldn't be repeated.  If the player couldn't think of an original jingle than that player became IT.  Those songs are still stuck in my head!  "Winston tastes good like a (boom, boom) cigarette should,"  "I'd walk a mile for a Camel," and Virginia Slims "You've come a long way baby, to get where you got to today."  I never smoked so clearly the advertising didn't win me over.
I'm not sure how Elsie received a 100% as she skipped answering question 2 about narcotics, which I really would have enjoyed reading.  Sadly, these problems still exist and we still teach the dangers in school today.
I have not included a chapter test on the skeleton which we also have.  Interestingly, the chapter test is in the same format as the end of year exam.  That's important as the students were well aware of how the material would be presented and had practiced the format throughout the year.  Today, our students are taken to a computer lab to complete their end of course exams.  It's the only time of the year that exams are given in that format which INMHO influences their score.  Next time we'll take a look at Geography.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Elsie's Exams Continued - 1910 Grammar Exam

Today in U.S. schools, Grammar is incorporated with writing, which along with reading, is taught through Language Arts in middle school and English in high school.  In the early 1900's, however, Reading and Grammar were separate subjects.  Think of the old song,

"School days, school days, 
Dear old golden rule days. 

'Readin' and 'ritin' and 'rithmetic, 
Taught to the tune of a hick'ry stick." 1


My husband's maternal grandmother, Elsie Johnson, had an 8th grade final grammar exam that I would have difficulty completing as I don't recall most of it.  The questions appear on the upper left hand corner of page one and were glued down.  Check out Elsie's 3 page test:

Elsie would have been considered an English Language Learner (ELL) today.  Although born in the U.S., Elsie's parents spoke primarily Swedish in the home and in her community.  Elsie attended a church that had services in her parents' native tongue and many of the shop keepers in her small town of Miller spoke Swedish.  No special classes were offered to Elsie; she learned English through total immersion.
In the 1990's, an educational movement occurred as a result of a dire prediction that students no longer wrote because of the increase usage of cell phones.  Hence, many states adopted a writing assessment in key grade levels to measure writing ability.  In Florida, that test was named Florida Writes and was given in grades 4, 8 and 10. Elsie's short narrative about how she spent her Saturday reminds me of an 8th grade prompt from about 1999.  Certainly not original but it is a topic in which students can relate.  Clearly the prediction of the end of writing was unfounded.  Young people today prefer to text and tweet over making phone calls but I will give the movement credit as today's messages are succinct!
Now that cursive handwriting isn't taught either, concerned groups are bemoaning the next generation will be at a loss.  I disagree as I think would many genealogists - looking at writing styles from old records it is often nearly impossible to read what was written.  I much prefer students print neatly than use illegible cursive.  I do wonder what today's children will do when they're supposed to place their signature on the line and then print their name under it, such as when they're getting a mortgage or purchasing a vehicle.  Maybe the signature line will be obsolete!
I expected to see diagramming on Elsie's exam as that was part of our 8th grade grammar test.  My mom attended Lake County, Indiana schools in the 1920's and 1930's and had to learn to diagram. That means the curriculum change occurred sometime between 1910 and the mid 1920's.  I had to do it in the 1960's and 70's but it was gone by the late 1980's when my children started school.  Guess that comes and goes out of style, too!
Next time we're going to take a look at Elsie's science final.

1Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, "School Days" Web. 30 Aug. 2015.




Thursday, September 10, 2015

More of Elsie's Exams - An Indiana 1910 End of Course Math Assessment

Last time I shared my husband's maternal grandmother, Elsie Johnson's, 8th grade Indiana end of year reading assessment from 1910 and promised to post the math exam.  I'm fascinated with Elsie's math test as math was always a difficult subject for me in school.  In Florida, 8th graders take Algebra I, a high school credit course, unless they have scores at a low level on the 7th grade math assessment.  Since Algebra is considered a gateway math course, meaning it is the basics of all higher level math, success in that class is important.  
Take a look at Elsie's Arithmetic exam page 1:

This would be a part our 7th grade curriculum today but only a small portion. I suppose the limited problems did show variation in using order of operations, fractions, decimals, and interpreting a story problem but I'm surprised there was no geometry, measurement, probability or graphing.  Clearly, being able to calculate a discount was considered of prime importance. I also find it interesting that Roman Numerals were used to differentiate the problems.
Elsie was administered an algebra test but with a score less than 75%, the state of Indiana would not consider it to be passing:
(See my blog of  6 Sep 2015 for the exam cover page which highlights rules to pass.)
I wonder if algebra was taught to 8th graders and if they did not pass, a more basic exam was given to them so that they could be promoted to the grade level. None of Elsie's exams are dated, other than the school year on the front cover, and the pages are loose leaf so I have no idea in what order the exams were administered.
I love the handwritten note circled at the top after the formula to solve is given stating "That old story."  Makes me laugh every time I see it!  Clearly, Elsie was over the story problems using marbles in the scenario.  


Sunday, September 6, 2015

Elsie's Exams - An Indiana 8th Grade Reading Assessment from 105 Years Ago

Tests and schools go hand and hand.  Lately there has been much parent backlash regarding the number of and amount of time spent on school assessments.  The validity and reliability of the assessments are also an issue.  Last spring in my state, students were still completing their online state required end of course assessments when the legislature decided that the results couldn’t be used as they had not been normed.  Duh!  Teachers and administrators had been complaining about how unfair the tests were but no one listened until the 12th hour.   
Another major educational concern is the use of a common core curriculum.  States rights advocates complain about Federal meddling.  Some educators complain that the common core doesn’t address what’s most important.   
Personally, I’m over all of the testing requirements – it’s way too much and I wish politicians could witness the stress their mandates are causing children.  I’m glad I never had the pressure at 8 years old that today's kids have.  For the past 15 years in Florida, if a child didn't score high enough on a standardized test administered in the spring, the student can be retained even though the child had performed adequately all year in class.  For many students, the test was the first time he/she ever was given a test formatted in that particular way so the unfairness of the retention is even greater.   
I truly am an advocate of a nationwide curriculum and testing program with regional elements added.  Genealogists know that families don’t stay in one place for long and transitioning for children is hard enough without having to adapt to a new curriculum.  I'm not saying every child in America should be on the same page in the same book every day.  Children learn at different rates; humans are not automated and differentiation is necessary and beneficial.  Comparing learning, however, does need to be uniform. When I first started teaching in Florida I was appalled at the standardized test questions that asked about tobogganing and ice skating.  Seriously, most of my students had no experience with northern winter weather.  How unfair! 
My husband’s grandmother, Elsie Wilhelmina Johnson attended school in Lake County, Indiana in the first decade of the 20th century.  A first generation American with Swedish spoken at home, I am amazed at how well she performed academically.  We have copies of her graduation exams and they were tough!.  Take a look at the testing rules:
Rule 10 states that a student needs a 75% on the exam AND classwork above 60% to pass for the year.  A 60% today equates to a grade of F so in Elsie's day, good test takers who slacked throughout the school year could pass.  We had that problem in middle school and the way our district fixed it was that students had to gain a minimum of 2 points a semester, which at the lowest, is two D's. Prior to the change we had darlings getting an A first grading period and then failing the next 3 grading periods.  The old rule was a student must earn 4 points a year in a subject to pass and the A equaled 4 points.  Our rule change eliminated slackers.
Elsie's exams were for completion of the 8th grade which was the highest grade she attended.  High School was available through 12th grade but was not mandatory.  Exams, though, were state mandated with the final test question "to be determined" by the local district.  Wish we still did that today!  This would allow for local differences yet still give educators a better idea of how a child had progressed in comparison with a broader group.
When I first began to teach I was a reading teacher so Elsie's reading tests are of particular interest to me.  My husband and I attended school in the 1970's in the same district as Elsie and we did not read the selections on her exam until high school.  In Florida, only Don Quxiote is still read and that is at the high school level:

Elsie's reading test was in two parts.  Here's the 2nd section:

I particularly like how the reading selections crossed curriculum areas, Pilgrim's Progress with US History, Burn's with science and Longfellow with philosophy.   In that case, the crafty teacher could have easily taught reading through the other core classes.
It appears that Elsie had one teacher all day who taught all lessons.  WOW!  This would certainly not occur today unless it was through a homeschool environment.  Teachers are prohibited from having to develop more than 3 different plans for levels or classes.
Think also of how much time was saved in not having students transition from room to room.  Five minutes passing time for 7 periods would save 30 minutes a day!
Next time we'll look at Elsie's math...


Thursday, September 3, 2015

Correcting Records Is A Feat!

Recently I’ve been ranting about the problem of looking for a record that never existed or once existed and has since vanished.  Today, I’m going to share a frustrating story about trying to correct an error in a record.
As genealogists we know that it’s common to find discrepancies in records.  One census may show a person born in one year and the next census may show a different birth year.  A marriage record may state a person was born in one state but the census record may show a different state.  We know it’s a best practice to try to find primary sources but sometimes even a primary source isn’t correct and it becomes a herculean task to try to fix the error.
Daughter recently moved and was trying to have her power turned on.  Power company told her they couldn’t do it because she had a discrepancy in her birthdate through one of the credit services they used.  She called the credit service (and I use the term service loosely!) and they refused to tell her which company had reported her birthdate wrong.  She was told to fax 2 of the following 3 documents to the credit card company to prove her correct date of birth:  a birth certificate, driver’s license, passport, or social security card.  Since daughter didn’t have power she couldn’t fax the documents (duh) so she took a picture of them on her phone and emailed them to me to fax.
Immediately I thought this was a scam but I checked and found that the number she was supposed to fax to was legitimate and lots of other people have encountered the same problem.  I faxed and got confirmation that the documents were sent.  Daughter called the power company back and informed them the information had been faxed but it could be 10 days before the situation was investigated.  Power company turned on the power (hooray!). 
A few weeks later daughter received via US mail a letter from the credit service stating she had to refax the documents as they were not readable.  Daughter refaxed and then sent a hard copy via US Mail.  Another few weeks went by and daughter received another document from the credit service in the mail stating they had re-investigated and would update the record if she sent them either a birth certificate or driver’s license.  This will be the fourth time they received copies of those documents.  Frustrated, daughter again tried to find out which record was in error so she could go directly to the source to get it corrected.  Although it is her credit record, the credit service again refused to divulge the information.  Daughter contacted her bank and credit card companies to see if they had the birthdate wrong.  Nope, their records were correct.  So, for the fourth time, daughter resent proof of her birthdate.  
I've noticed when looking at US Public Records Index that too many individuals have conflicting birthdates in comparison to my other sources.  I don't know if you've notice this, too, but I'm guessing there must be a date of birth field where someone is entering the digit 1 instead of the actual date of birth.  Since the month and year are correct, I don't know if all the fields must be complete and if they don't have the day of birth they enter a 1.  No way to correct the error, either!
It's important to remember that clearly, even today, record accuracy isn't going to happen 100% of the time.