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October 2, 2007 > Credentials, Colleges and Course of Study

Credentials, Colleges and Course of Study

The only requirements to be a teacher in the early days were a willingness to teach and the ability to impress local school officials. There were no training or certification requirements. The state began to exercise control over certification requirements in the 1860's, but the counties generally issued the certificates.

The Alameda County Board of Education was established in 1866 and examinations were required for certification. Credentials became so coveted that there was widespread cheating under both state and local control. It got so bad that the legislature made it a misdemeanor for a board member to prepare teachers for certificate examinations, and finally in the 1890's they gave the state board control over certification.

It became apparent that schools could only be as good as the teachers employed, so training programs were developed. A normal school to train teachers was established at San Francisco in 1862 and moved to San Jose in 1871. The Alameda County Board of Education decided in 1876 that it would issue certificates only to teachers with diplomas from California Normal Schools. However, there were many situations when there was a teacher shortage and this rule could not be followed. State certificates were designated first grade, second grade, or third grade in 1878, and about one third of the county teachers held life diplomas. One hundred thirty seven certificate applications were reported rejected. Some of the exercises about parsing words or diagramming sentences would challenge modern students or perhaps cause them to say "Who cares?"

A "College of Teachers and Trustees" was organized at San Leandro in October 1859 to bring teachers and trustees together to advance educational interests in the county. Results of this meeting are not clear, but county teachers established an Alameda County Teacher's Association in 1867. Recommendations were sometimes made at the annual county institutes sponsored by the County Superintendent of Schools. Members resolved in 1888 to reduce the time for arithmetic and increase the time for mental arithmetic in the primary and grammar grades. They also declared that "teachers who patronize saloons should be discharged."

The California Educational Society became the California Teachers Association (CTA) in 1875. A county historian noted in 1893 that "many women were present" at the CTA meeting and there was a spirited discussion of instruction methods. He also observed that the National Education Association (NEA) met in San Francisco in 1888. Alviso School District trustees recorded an annual $2 membership fee to the NEA.

The course of study for pioneer schools was subject to varied influences. At first, the primary effort was to secure regular attendance by students. Pioneer schools equated good education with literacy which meant reading, writing and practical studies.

The 1865 school law required that the State Board adapt regulations for a course of study and provide a register for each teacher. Teachers were required to "keep a Register of all scholars attending the school, their ages, daily attendance and time of attendance at school. A Daily Record of Scholarship and Deportment was required to show the attendance of each student, the class program, the number of scholars in each class, the time allowed for each exercise or recitation and any Corporal Punishment administered. The Public School Register for Centerville District No. 2 has survived to give us a glimpse of how the teachers used these registers. W. H. Yates was teaching geometry, arithmetic, geography, reading, grammar, history, spelling, philosophy, penmanship and composition to his upper grade students at Centerville in 1879. The Alameda County Board of Education adopted Bancroft's Readers, White's Arithmetic and the Eclectic Geographies in 1884.

Sometimes the County Superintendent imposed requirements. Superintendent P. M. Fisher notified teachers in 1890 that "they must give a short course in entomology." He said to study "Cooke's Insects, Injurious and Beneficial" and seek practical hints in neighboring orchards. Pests to be studied included codling moth, tent caterpillar, San Jose Scale, canker worm, aphids, weevil, phylloxera and bees.

In spite of all the restrictions, teachers managed to exert some control of the course of study. A teacher at Warm Springs said in 1879 that she was using McGuffey's Readers but admitted that she didn't always stick to the course of study. She stated, "I admit that I have no authority to use the word book, but it is the wish of the patrons of this school that their children learn to spell correctly." A Centerville teacher wrote, "I allow the course of study to be a landmark. Still I have to exercise my Yankee ingenuity in this school so as to promote the greatest good to the greatest number."

Union High School No. 2 (Washington), formed under the law of 1890, was permitted to prepare its own course of study, but it had to be approved by the Alameda County Board. The courses were divided into classical, literary, scientific, mathematics, commercial, agricultural, and general industrial departments.

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