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SECOND SEMI-ANNUAL REPORT.
To the School Committee of Boston.
GENTLEMEN : — It affords me pleasure to say, that according to my best knowledge and belief, our system of public instruction has been as prosperous and successful during the last six months as at any previous period in its history. Most of the changes which have taken place have been improvements.
In furnishing additional and improved school accommodations, the action of the City Council and its Committees has been prompt and liberal. The teachers, with few exceptions, have manifested a hearty interest in their work. The attendance of the pupils has been steadily increasing, and their progress gratifying. And I can bear witness to the fidelity and efficiency of the members of this Board in their efforts to promote the interests of the schools.
In my last Report, I spoke of the neglect of physical education as a radical defect in our system of public instruction. With the added light on this subject which observation and study have since afforded, I see no reason to modify what was then submitted. On the contrary, every day's experience in the schools deepens my conviction of the imperative necessity of making physical training a part of our school culture. This necessity is increased just in proportion to the perfection of the arrangements of the system with a view to the highest intellectual results. The very completeness of our system in other respects is what makes it liable to injure the health, or at least to prevent the proper physical development, of the pupils.
The Report of the Special Committee, to whom the subject was referred, is, in my judgment, wise and practical, and I hope the plan presented will be adopted, without any material modification.
material modification. The main feature of the plan consists in appointing a suitable person to aid and instruct the teachers, in the physical training of their pupils. This part of the plan seems to me essential to its success. A competent person is needed to see that the exercises practised are safe, and adapted to the wants and the physical condition of the children.
It is an interesting fact that while this plan of physical culture has been under consideration here, it has met with favor elsewhere, and has been put in practical operation, on a liberal scale. The Board of Education of Cincinnati adopted it several weeks since, with two unessential modifications; the one fixing the maximum time to be devoted to exercise during each session at a quarter of an hour instead of a half, and the other providing for the appointment of two teachers of gymnastics instead of one.
One of the most important changes which have been made in the Primary Schools since their establishment, is the introduction of what is called the plan of classification. Where the gradation has been completed according to the theory of this plan, each teacher has but one grade or class of pupils under her charge. Where this arrangement exists, pupils who are not kept back by some special incapacity, or by protracted non-attendance, should pass from one grade to the next higher at the end of each half-year, thus passing through the Primary course of instruction in three years. This modification of the Primary School organization was commenced about five years ago, and it has been carried forward gradually and cautiously, till most of the schools which are so situated as to make classification practicable, are now conducted on that plan.
Several of the Intermediate Schools have been graded, but these schools are peculiar in their character, and it seems to me that the objects of their establishment would be accomplished as well on the ungraded plan as on the graded, and perhaps better. The materials of these schools being somewhat miscellaneous, the attempt to subject them to a rigid and exact classification is of doubtful utility. The teachers in these schools have an arduous and important task to perform, and they need special encouragement and assistance. The accommodations for this description of schools, which is intended for those children who from the neglect of parents or other causes are not qualified for the Grammar Schools, though above the age for the Primary Schools, should be as convenient and attractive as those of any other, and the pupils should be advanced to the Grammar Schools as rapidly as possible.