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SCHENECTADY DIGITAL HISTORY ARCHIVE

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Electric City Immigrants: Italians and Poles of Schenectady, N.Y., 1880-1930
Chapter 6: Education

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[This information is from pp. 218-298 of Electric City Immigrants: Italians and Poles of Schenectady, N.Y., 1880-1930 by Dr. Robert R. Pascucci (State University of New York at Albany, Department of History, 1984). It is copyrighted by Dr. Pascucci and reproduced here with his permission. It is in the Schenectady Collection of the Schenectady County Public Library at Schdy R 325.24 PAS.]

Parochial Schools

Among the Italian immigrants of Schenectady, little enthusiasm existed for assuming the heavy financial burden of providing a parochial school education for their children. Awaiting the efforts of later generations, a parochial school would eventually be established in St. Anthony's parish in 1958 and in Our Lady of Mt. Carmel's two years later. (1) Since education was principally a state affair and parochial schools were virtually unknown in Italy, Schenectady Italians considered it a needless extravagance to shoulder the expense of a parish school, especially when both parochial and, particularly, public schools were within walking distance. (2) But not all Italian newcomers held the same view. In nearby Troy and Albany, Italians established parochial schools by the beginning of World War I. In neither Troy nor Albany, however, did Italians attempt to use their schools to teach their national language or otherwise nurture old world traditions as did Poles in Schenectady and elsewhere. Both the Troy and the Albany parishes employed the non-Italian Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondolet who provided the students an ethnic-free education similar to that in the parochial schools of the territorial parishes where the sisters were more commonly found. (3)

Italian children in Schenectady did, however, attend non-Italian parochial schools, but the number was modest because of the popularity of a public school education. Furthermore, the choice of parochial schools was limited to only one or two. For the widely spread Italian inhabitants of the city, a parochial school was located at a distance inconvenient to many. Unlike Albany, with approximately 30 percent of its student population enrolled in Catholic schools, and Troy, with 40 percent, Schenectady had but 15 percent of its total school population registered in four Catholic schools. (4) Italians of Schenectady, of course, found St. Adalbert's and St. Mary's unacceptable because of their Polish curriculums. St. Joseph's began attracting non-Germans, as it deemphasized its former ethnic character, but very few Italian children attended since the parish was located near the central business district along State Street, which was at some distance from even the nearest centers of Italian population. (5) Only St. John's, with its non-ethnic identity and its location near the large Italian colony in the Third Ward, seemed suitable. The oldest Catholic parish in the city, St. John's, was founded in 1865 to serve the expanding Irish population. As its parishioners moved out of the downtown areas, which were fast filling with Italians, Poles and other "new" immigrants, St. John's built a second church (1911) on upper Union Street. When the parish was finally divided in 1920, the transfer of elementary school students to the "new" St. John's (St. John the Evangelist) opened spaces in "old" St. John's (renamed St. John the Baptist). With relatively fewer older stock Catholics available to fill the vacated seats, the Italians undoubtedly found the former Irish school more congenial. That first fall (1920) eighty-two public school children transferred to the newly organized St. John the Baptist. Half were from the not-distant Union and Park Place schools, both heavily Italian. (6) By the end of that first year approximately seventy-five pupils (25 percent of the student body) at St. John the Baptist were Italians. (7) Their presence was readily apparent in 1924 when nine Italians were listed among the thirty-seven graduates of the eighth grade. (8)

Far different from the Italians, the Poles deemed the establishment of a parochial school as essential as having their own church. In both Polish parishes in Schenectady, schooling was provided the very same year that a church was erected. Even the lack of a separate school building failed to deter the parishioners of St. Mary's, where children began attending school in the basement of the church upon its completion in 1893. Plans for a new school were stalled by the hard times of the 1890s, and the basement school continued for a decade. The first class enrolled forty-nine girls, but only fifteen boys. Within the financially strained community, few families could deny themselves the help that a working son could provide. Within a few years, enrollment rose to 125 students. In addition to Pastor Dereszewski, the faculty consisted of his sister, Felicia, and the organist, a layman whose double service was common in early Polish schools. (9) Staffing a lay faculty with qualified teachers was a difficult task. Salaries were low and qualified candidates were in short supply. The curriculum in such early schools was generally limited to reading, writing and catechism, all taught in Polish by teachers with little or no English. (10) The scarcity of able teachers, combined with the difficulty that a struggling parish had paying teacher salaries, spelled an overwhelming number of students per teacher. During the last year that the school was conducted in the church basement, three lay teachers struggled to instruct a total of 298 youngsters. (11) Regarded as only temporary, the lay faculty, nevertheless, continued for years and moved in to staff the new school building (1903) that an improved economy and a growing, more financially secure parish allowed. In 1907 the lay faculty was finally replaced by Polish-speaking nuns, the Sisters of the Resurrection. By 1915 the school had been converted to a convent and a more substantial, brick school building with eleven classrooms was constructed to accommodate the school population that had grown to 520 students, ten nuns and one lay person. With the additional room and staffing, St. Mary's was able to expand the elementary program from six to eight grades. (12)

A more prosperous economy and the heavy influx of immigrants allowed the Poles of the Mt. Pleasant area to establish both a church and a school in the year that the parish was organized. In July 1903, St. Adalbert's Church was consecrated and the following September a school was opened to approximately two hundred children. Although three-fourths of them had been in attendance at St. Mary's School, all the students, regardless of previous schooling, were sorted into four groups according to age and height. Three years passed before four traditional-style grades evolved. Discouraged by a perceived ineffectiveness of the school program, the parish leadership feared that the children were bound to lose their cultural heritage. The fault, it was thought, lay not with the school itself, for it was described as the equal of most Polish parochial schools, but with parental indifference to the educational needs of Polish youth. Children usually attended parochial school only a few years until First Holy Communion, and then dropped out to find work or transferred to the tuition-free public schools. Such a brief time spent in the parochial school furnished the children with but a skimpy knowledge of the teachings of their faith and only the rudiments of the Polish language. (13)

To correct this situation, all parents were required to enroll their children in the parish school for the full six-year program. Such a policy was certain to arouse bitter controversy, but the parish administration, convinced of the need to define Polish Catholicism in terms of both active church and school membership, proceeded to implement the new regulation without compromise. For these advocates, the need for parochial schooling went beyond the defense-of-the-faith rationale that Bishop McNierny had employed:

…the cause of religion is intimately connected with the Catholic school. Our enemies do not fail to perceive this, and hence their persistent endeavors to wean the youth from Catholic influence by establishing everywhere schools where God is ignored… (14)

Having struggled to preserve their religion, their language and their national spirit against the hostility of the partitioning powers, most Poles regarded the parochial school as vital as the church in maintaining their Polish heritage. They would not surrender what Poles in the old country had struggled for generations to preserve out of a greed "to reap profits or gain from our children at the earliest opportunity." In the person of their pastor, Joseph Gogolewski, who had been removed by Russian authorities from his church position as prefect of institutions of higher learning and forced to flee his homeland, the parishioners had a constant reminder, perhaps a symbolic embodiment, of the plight of the Polish people. (15)

Implementation of the new regulation embroiled the parish in ugly dissension. Approximately seventy-five recalcitrant families were expelled and another fifty families withdrew from the parish voluntarily. It was further estimated that among the steady flow of new arrivals into the Mt. Pleasant area, some fifty Polish families agreed with the dissenters and refused to join the parish. By the time relative calm was restored, almost 175 families had been lost to the church. With the suppression of opposition, Pastor Gogolewski was free to introduce even sterner measures to prevent the young from being lost to Polonia. With the exception of English instruction in class, students were forbidden to speak English at any time in the school or on the school grounds. The children were further advised not to speak English anywhere "unnecessarily." Wavering supporters of this position were bolstered by the congratulatory comments of visiting Polish Archbishop Symon:

Touring many Polish parishes, nowhere have I heard children speaking correctly and with such clarity as here in your parish. I express admiration and sincerely hope that you will maintain this school on this level always, and in this way, you will bring honor to yourselves among the Polish Colony in America. (16)

Of course, for the great majority of Poles, whether to provide parochial schooling was not the issue, but rather to what extent Polish studies were necessary to instill Polishness (Polskość) among the young. For many parents, the Polish that their children learned at home and a basic reading ability were sufficient. School officials at St. Adalbert's, however, were convinced that those without a thorough grounding in Polish language, literature and history were bound to "perish in the sea of Americanization" (ginie w morzu amerykanizmu). These Poles were determined not to abandon their values, traditions and culture in the midst of what they perceived as a strange unfriendly environment. Should their Polish character fail to survive in America, Poles feared becoming a soulless people, isolated from one another and, despite efforts to assimilate, isolated from a hostile American society. (17)

The struggle for extended parochial schooling adds support to Victor Greene's study that demonstrated that internal dissension within the Polish community, not external antagonistic forces, shaped and defined the ethnic consciousness of the immigrant group. But unlike Greene's Polish nationalists in Chicago, who strengthened their ethnicity by abandoning Roman Catholicism to form independent Polish churches, those in Schenectady, who struggled for a more secure Polish identity, sought it for their children within the Catholic community. (18)

The further restrictions placed on the English language in the school's curriculum, however, renewed parental concern that the children would have a poor command of the language, which would limit their job opportunities and handicap those who transferred to the public schools. Although this fear proved groundless, according to a contemporary parish history, former superintendent of public schools Charles Abba recalled that many Polish students spoke with an accent. Even after school officials at St. Adalbert's and St. Mary's expanded the use of English in the curriculum, Abba observed that because the children spoke Polish almost exclusively at home, the public schools in the 1930s employed Isabelle Jarvis to help those Polish children who needed to improve their English. (19)

An inspection conducted in 1910 by the state education department reported that, in fact, English was not being taught at St. Adalbert's or St. Mary's schools. The department reminded public school officials that they risked a loss of state funds if they failed to carry out the state mandate to enforce the teaching of English in private and parochial schools. (20) The 1910 federal manuscript census reveals that the faculty at St. Mary's was actually poorly equipped to implement the state regulation. There were seven teaching nuns, aged twenty-five to thirty-nine, at St. Mary's, which then consisted of five hundred students in grades one through eight. Six of the nuns were born in Poland, five from the German partition and one from the Russian. Half of this group could neither read, write nor speak English. The seventh nun was born in Illinois of parents from German Poland. (21)

Soon, changes were made to comply with state standards by upgrading the teaching of English and adopting public school syllabi. Both had the effect of easing the transition for those who continued their education in the public schools, and reducing such difficulties as experienced by Edward P. who had successfully completed seven grades at St. Mary's but who was, nevertheless, placed in seventh grade upon transferring to (as the registrar termed it) the "American" schools. (22) In an apparent effort to improve the teaching of English and to provide a more diversified course offering competitive with the public schools, school officials at St. Adalbert's added teachers of non-Polish descent to the lay staff. One-third of the faculty listing for the 1914-15 school year consisted of non-Polish names. With Miss Walsh teaching first grade, Miss Finan teaching third grade, and Miss Scully teaching sixth grade, it was evident that the female teacher of Irish descent was as much a presence at St. Adalbert's as she was in the public schools of the city. (23)

Completely wedded to the concept that the immigrant's grasp of English was a vital prerequisite to all subsequent educational progress, Schenectady school officials never evaluated the benefits of the bilingual program that evolved in the Polish parochial schools. Hearing only Polish at home, these children started school knowing little or no English. Instead of marking time in the so-called "ungraded" or "steamer classes" of the public schools for a year or more until learning English, or languishing in regular classes, understanding little and falling steadily behind in their studies, Polish children in the parochial schools used two languages in a fashion similar to that of bilingual education programs currently in use (which, supporters contend, accelerates the learning process).

Rather than restrict English instruction to formal language classes and teach all the other subjects in Polish until students gained a command of English, school authorities at St. Adalbert's utilized an immaginative curriculum in which both Polish and English were used concurrently to teach core or basic subjects. The lesson schedule in Table 6.1 shows that instruction in arithmetic and geography was done in both languages which allowed a topic to be introduced in Polish and reviewed and reinforced in English. That the use of Polish was designed to ease a student's transition to understanding these courses completely in English is clear from the amount of time allotted to the teaching in each language over the years. While the amount of time devoted to the teaching of arithmetic and geography in Polish remained unchanged from one year to the next until eliminated in the fifth grade, the use of English increased and continued throughout the elementary grades. The total elementary program reflected a similar progression. In the first grade, English was the language of instruction for 50 percent of the time and then in the following grades increased until it reached a maximum of 64.5 percent of the time in the sixth grade.

Table 6.1

St. Adalbert's School 1914-15
Lesson Schedule — Hours Per Week of Instruction
 Grades 
123456Total
Religion (P)22222212
Polish77755536
English88876643
Arithmetic (P)22228
Arithmetic (E)35555528
Geography (P)1113
Geography (E)233311
Polish History (P)224
United States History (E)224
Natural Sciences (P)2226
Physiology and Hygiene (E)112
Penmanship (E)22222212
Other classes, including Drawing (P), Singing (P), Gymnastics (P), and Sewing (E)1111228
Totals252830303232177

(P) — Taught in Polish

(E) — Taught in English

Source: Adapted from Historya, p. 32.

By using Polish in the classroom, students were enabled to proceed more normally from one grade to the next without repeated failures for want of proficiency in the English language. Unlike the public schools, where the number of children in first grade was disproportionately large, filled with students who generally remained there (regardless of age) until they learned English, the enrollment in each of the early grades at St. Adalbert's was quite similar (see Table 6.2). Of the total number of public school students who failed the fall term of the first grade in 1914, 34 percent had failed one to four terms previously. (24) Of course, any attempt to formulate a theory that the ethnic parochial school provided immigrant children a swifter adjustment to American schooling cannot neglect the fact that some Polish parochial schools, confronted with limited space but ever increasing numbers of incoming students, based promotion on other factors than simply academic performance in order to keep all classrooms and grades filled to capacity. (25) But, even if arbitrary promotions were resorted to at St. Adalbert's, students there had a better opportunity to progress through the grades at a normal rate and avoid the embarrassment of being an over-aged child in the first grade or being set apart in an ungraded class to learn English.

Table 6.2

Distribution of Students by Grades — 1913-14
GradeSt. Adalbert'sEdisonNottPark Place
1141149146117
2134718940
3135737743
490337941
567328042
638*5530

* Grades 1-5 only.

Source: Historya, p. 33; Schenectady Public Schools, Superintendent's Report, A. R. Brubacher, Superintendent of Schools, June 1914 (Schenectady, 1914), p. 10.

However, the Polish schools would not have embraced the modern concept of bilingual education, which employs a student's native language in order to keep him abreast of his studies while working toward the ultimate objective of English mastery. Once mastery is accomplished, the native language becomes unnecessary and is discarded from the instructional program. While honoring the necessity of English literacy for their children, the Poles at St. Adalbert's continued their efforts to link their children with an ethnic tradition through the means of Polish studies. In service to two objectives, this early form of bilingual education, however, was not designed to achieve assimilation at the expense of Polish values and traditions. The school officials at St. Adalbert's were convinced that "children educated with the love of God and Fatherland (Boga i ojczyzny) will grow up to be genuinely useful for the Polish community." In addition to the Polish that the student learned and practiced at home and in language class in school, classes were taught in Polish as a means of perfecting the student's knowledge of the language. As Table 6.1 shows, Polish was the language of instruction in religion, Polish history, natural science and physical education. (26)

Encouraged by the popularity of the school, which by 1913 had grown to eight grades and seven hundred students, Father Gogolewski ambitiously began organizing a kolegium or college, the first of its kind in the diocese and, perhaps, in the state and New England, as claimed. The kolegium was in reality a college preparatory or secondary level program. Absorbing the seventh and eighth grades of the elementary school, the six-year course of the proposed kolegium would consist of a preparatory class followed by first through fifth classes. Joining St. John the Baptist Academy and St. Joseph's Academy, St. Adalbert's kolegium would become the third Catholic high school in the city. At a cost of $65,000, a brick school building was erected to house the kolegium. The new school building contained nine classrooms, a two-thousand seat auditorium on the upper floor, and, in the basement, a laboratory, a library, bowling alleys, a gymnasium, and a "vocal culture room." On hand for the opening in September 1914, Bishop Burke congratulated the parishioners on their accomplishment while adding that they should be particularly proud of themselves, considering their own "scant education," for supporting higher education. Much of the credit, however, belonged to the pastor who had continually emphasized, from the pulpit, the value of an education. Combining the roles of spiritual leader, Polish nationalist, and educator for his immigrant parishioners, Father Gogolewski filled his sermons with references to patriotism, religion, grammar, geography and hygiene. (27)

The first school year opened with 24 students in the preparatory class (wstępna) and 10 in the first class. Of the total 34 students in both classes, only 8 were girls, and of those, only 1 was in the first class. The small enrollment in the two classes, which were the equivalent of grades seven and eight in the public schools, was a weak foundation on which to build a high school program. Most of the teachers in the emerging secondary department also taught in the primary grades. Creative lesson planning or strength of academic background could not be expected from teachers like Miss Mizia who taught third grade and, in the upper level, Latin, German and gymnastics; or Miss Scully who, in addition to fifth grade, was expected to teach business subjects and domestic science at the secondary level. First year (eighth grade) students in history class probably did little more than read aloud from their Barnes School History of the United States, since their teacher, Mr. Henry, who, in addition to being director of the preparatory class, taught arithmetic in the elementary grades and, according to the faculty directory, would teach arithmetic, geography, United States history and civics, algebra, botany and zoology, and drawing in the kolegium. These weaknesses in the new venture, however, did not dampen the optimism of its supporters, who were encouraged by the enrollment of out-of-town students — four from Amsterdam and two from Fall River, Massachusetts. Boarding facilities were provided for these students who, along with others from outside the parish, paid a monthly tuition of two dollars. Mindful that the kolegium was in competition with the public schools for students, St. Adalbert's school officials reassured parents that the state education department curriculi were being followed and, with pride, publicized the first group of seventh and eighth graders who reported to the neighboring Seward School to take New York State Regents examinations. (28)

Despite the enthusiasm and pride that the school generated in the community, the kolegium failed within two years. Noting a high failure rate on Regents examinations in those parochial schools that provided bilingual instruction, Bishop Cusack observed in a letter to pastors of the diocese:

This is a great injustice to the children who will have to compete with their fellows later in life in a country where idiom is demanded for success and advancement. It is the language of the country where the children will later have to earn their living and there is no one who does not know that children who begin their school education in a foreign tongue can never quite get rid of the idioms and peculiarities of that language.

To correct this situation, the Bishop, in the same letter, decreed that beginning in the fall of 1916, excluding devotional exercises and religious instruction, all teaching must be done in English. While granting the exceptions, Bishop Cusack, nevertheless, advised that "it would be better to conform to the actual language of the country in which the children will live and which they will have to defend their faith." (29) To a greater extent than in the elementary school, Polish was the language of instruction of the kolegium. Even Latin, Greek, German and French were to be taught in Polish. Without the use of the national language as the core of a Polish studies education, the kolegium lost its reason for existence and was closed in 1917 when Sisters of the Resurrection arrived to replace the lay faculty. With the brief experiment ended, the school returned to an elementary school of eight grades. (30)

Although the Bishop sent his letter to all the pastors of the diocese, his message was intended for Poles as well as French Canadians and Lithuanians. Both Italian pastors and parishioners were eager to have their children learn English. Taking advantage of the exceptions provided but not encouraged by the Bishop, Poles, who still wanted their children to be bilingual, continued the use of the national language in their parochial schools. In the late 1930s, Writer's Project researcher, George Briskie, found that at St. Adalbert's and St. Mary's, children in grades one to four were being instructed in Polish for half the day — a schedule seemingly unchanged by Bishop Cusack's directive of 1916. (31)

Approximately 60 percent of Polish students were enrolled in the parochial schools during the 1920's, but efforts to keep them from transferring to the public schools continued to be unsuccessful. No tuition, free textbooks and an opportunity to gain a better command of English attracted many to the public schools, while a broader course offering and extra-curricular activities interested others. Of a sample 132 Polish students drawn from public school records, 65 percent had transferred from either St. Mary's or St. Adalbert's. Table 6.3 shows that the transfers began in earnest at the end of the third grade and continued heavily for three more years. (32)

Table 6.3

Grade Transferred into the Public Schools by Students from St. Adalbert's and St. Mary's
GradePercent
1
21
31
421
521
635
716
85

Source: Sample taken from pupil permanent records of Polish students whose surnames start with the letters P, R, S and who were born before 1911. No child in the sample was born before 1900. Use of these record cards began with the 1909-1910 school year.

The children of the foreign born were dominant within the parochial schools. The Poles alone composed half of the parochial school population in the city (see Table 6.4).

Table 6.4

Parochial School Enrollment in Schenectady — 1911
SchoolEnrollment
Deutsche Evangelische Freidens Kerche32
St. Adalbert's (Polish)500
St. John's444
St. Joseph's370
Zion Parochial130
St. Mary's (Polish)400

Source: The Citizen, September 15, 1911.

Public Schools

The children of the immigrants also became a significant element in the public schools. By 1921 these students were in the majority (see Table 6.5). The Italians, the largest immigrant group, composed approximately one-fifth of all public school students, and second were the Poles who numbered almost one-tenth of the total enrollment.

Table 6.5

Nativity of Parents of Public School Students — 1921
CountryNumberPercent
United States7,52548
Austria4153
Czechoslovakia1301
British Empire1,2228
Germany5504
Hungary2101
Italy2,99419
Poland1,3879
Russia6774
Scandinavia1591
Others3282
Total15,606100
 
Summary:
Native Born of Native Born Parents7,52548
Native Born of Foreign Born Parents7,38447
Foreign Born of Foreign Born Parents6975
Total15,606100

Source: Schenectady Public Schools, "Nativity of Parents of Day School Pupils," January 21, 1921.

The implication of the study of the elementary schools conducted in 1908 by the state education department was unmistakable. The Schenectady public school system was not providing an adequate education for the children, those of the newcomers and older stock alike. Detailing an unrelieved list of weaknesses, the conclusions of the report read like an indictment. Above all, it was noted that the students read poorly. This "fundamental weakness" continued into the upper grades where students were observed reading geography and history textbooks, but demonstrating little comprehension of the subject matter. As expected, students who were not taught to read well, who were "particularly backward" in English, were deficient in both oral and written expression. To complete the dismal picture of student performance, the state inspectors rarely found even one student in each of the eighth grade classrooms who was up to grade level in arithmetic. With eighth grade registration slightly less than 15 percent of that in the first grade, few children were completing a grammar school education and, for those who did, its value was in doubt.

An assortment of causes were identified as responsible for the student deficiencies. The quality of teaching, with exceptions, was unimaginative and ineffective or "inefficient," as the teaching of reading was described. Hoping to see evidence that students understood subject matter by being able to identify significance, cause and effect, and compare data, the state officials found class time devoted to the deadening routine of copying and memorizing notes, endlessly dictated. In the upper grades, a greater emphasis needed to be placed on the teaching of the basic subjects of grammar, reading, literature, arithmetic and penmanship. By the eighth grade, only half of the school day was devoted to these staples. Manual training and domestic science classes were diverting too much time away from the primary tasks. Schools were so overcrowded that part-time schooling was necessary. To help staff the double sessions, a heavy reliance was placed on substitutes whose political connections counted more than experience and ability. In one class that year, students had undergone the chaotic experience of having twenty-one substitute teachers. With all the time lost to instruction, it was appalling to find students dismissed for a half day to allow teachers to meet with their primary grade supervisor, Elizabeth Hall. Few schools had libraries, and those that did were poorly equipped. Supplementary reading in the classrooms was often inappropriate for the grade level in which used. The supply of maps, globes and other teaching equipment and supplies was found completely inadequate, "clearly less than one would find in the ordinary village school."

Promotions were based on the judgement of the individual classroom teacher, with no standardized examination employed or even a predetermined formula to ascertain the relative value of examinations and class work. No grade books were used, only attendance registers in which comments were found such as "excellent," "good," "fair," and "poor." Final examinations were not saved. In fact, no permanent record was maintained to mark a student's progress. Once a student left, only the attendance registers offered proof of his former enrollment. Efforts of the state inspectors to assess teaching experience and academic background of the faculty were frustrated by an absence of personnel files. As a method of controlling the overcrowding in the lower grades, children were not admitted to first grade until age six. Combined with late entrance and failure, the average age of the first grader was seven and a half. With such a late start, few students would reach the eighth grade before turning fourteen, an age when many left school. Accordingly, the state officials recommended lowering the entrance age. With the school system beset by all these problems, which in large part were caused by the rapid influx of an industrial population that overwhelmed the existing school facilities, the investigators, not surprisingly, found the school personnel confused and demoralized:

There is plainly perceptible throughout the school system a feeling of uncertainty, unrest and dissatisfaction which militates against school interests. There is clearly a lamentable lack of unity and hearty cooperation so essential to satisfactory results. (33)

The responsibility for inadequate grading procedures, poor record keeping, and a generally uncoordinated educational process, lay largely with the administrators. Both the superintendent and the building principals were faulted for not providing close supervision of classroom work. Perhaps identifying with fellow educational administrators, the education department officials were quick to express an understanding of the many hardships endured by the Schenectady officials. However, no such sympathies had been offered to the classroom teachers. The small cadre of building principals were without clerical assistance and, with one exception, supervised two or more schools. The latter situation would change only gradually. Until he was appointed to one school alone in 1915, Union College graduate, Olin C. Hotchkiss simultaneously held the principalship of Park Place, Nott and Franklin Schools located in the north end of the city. Administrative practices were not changing fast enough to control and direct the swiftly growing school system. The style of administration had not changed much from that established years before by long-time superintendent, Samuel D. Howe (1868-1905), whose position as chief school administrator included the added roles of secretary to the board of education and city public librarian — all without clerical assistance until 1899. (34)

Actually, since the establishment of free public schooling in the 1850s, the Schenectady schools were rarely free of crises. In compliance with state law, free public schooling began in Schenectady during the fall of 1855. Prepared for an enrollment of 450 students, school facilities were swamped by the 1,100 children who appeared for class. School officials promptly closed the school for two months and hurriedly located additional classroom space. (35) During the next fifteen years, school officials met the demand of a school enrollment that rose by 35 percent, approximately forty students a year, with the tardy construction of temporary facilities and such expediencies as double sessions and raising the entrance age from five to six. Failing to provide sufficient room, only half the city's youth aged five to twenty-one were in attendance at a time when two-thirds of that same age range throughout the state were attending school. (36)

With the passage of the 1875 compulsory education law, which required the attendance of children between the ages of eight and fourteen, classes of sixty, seventy, and even eighty became common. Overwhelmed by the crush of students, Superintendent Howe pleaded unavailingly for small classes, explaining that "twenty-five pupils are as many as any teacher who is not an angel or a genius, can teach well." Howe cautioned that such crowding, particularly evident in the lower grades, would negatively influence a child's mental, moral and physical development as well as his "future usefulness" and "happiness." Trying to strike the right chord to open the purse strings of the city council, Howe noted that the revival of business and the increase in Schenectady's population began at the same time as the establishment of free public schooling, in the hope that the city fathers would believe that the former was in consequence of the latter. Apparently doubtful that this tactic would convince the frugal councilmen that "it pays a people financially to be heavily taxed for the support of good schools," Howe struck an unsettling theme that would be repeated by later superintendents by warning that the provision of proper schooling was far cheaper than letting youths run wild and be brought up by the police. Lest the point be missed, the president of the board of education ominously advised that one way or the other the taxpayer would support the education of the children — either in school or in the street which would lead "to the police court, the house of refuge, the penitentiary and the alms house." Unmoved, the city authorities and taxpayers remained tight fisted in their support of public schooling, which resulted in a careless enforcement of the compulsory education law and a relaxed attitude toward truants. Although the average number of students registered per teacher was sixty-five, the average number in daily attendance fell to forty-one without serious effort by the school authorities to correct the situation. (37)

Table 6.6

Enrollment Increase in Schenectady Public Schools by Five Year Period, 1890-1910
YearNumber Students EnrolledNumber IncreasePercent Increase
18902,415
18952,79037515.5
19003,8251,03537.1
19057,5273,70296.8
191010,7943,26743.4
 
Annual Enrollment Increase 1900-1910
19003,825
19014,0282035.3
19025,7901,76243.7
19036,56277213.3
19046,8783164.8
19057,5276499.4
19068,2467199.6
19079,13989310.8
19089,2711321.4
19099,7014304.6
191010,7941,09311.3

Source: Adapted from SPS, Superintendent's Report, 1913 (Schenectady, 1913), p. 8.

The industrial boom that followed the establishment of the Edison works attracted a heavy influx of workers whose children placed a staggering burden on the Schenectady public schools. From 2,415 students in 1890, the school population escalated to 10,794 in 1910, an increase of 8,379 (or 347 percent) in twenty years. Table 6.6 shows how unpredictable the growth pattern was. Enrollment stagnated during the depression years of the 1890s, but leaped by 1,500 in 1903 following the annexation of Bellevue and Mt. Pleasant. The first decade of the twentieth century brought increases that would require at least one new school building annually. But attempts to formulate a sound building plan were frustrated by the irregular population growth, including an uneven development of different areas of the city, and a city government whose financial support was unpredictable. To conserve resources, "half schools" of twelve classrooms were built which could be expanded when the need arose. Frame structures and other small schools of six to eight classrooms were continued in service long beyond the dictates of efficiency and safety. (38)

Soon after the negative state evaluation in 1908, Dr. A. R. Brubacher assumed the superintendency of the troubled school system. A Yale graduate and, since 1905, principal of Schenectady's high school, the new superintendent regarded part-time instruction as the nemesis of quality. He would struggle to eliminate the "evil," although with mixed results, throughout his tenure, which lasted until 1915. At the time that Brubacher assumed his duties in the fall of 1908, 5,400 students out of a total 9,000 were attending half sessions. In the new high school, constructed in 1903 to accommodate 480 students, 756 were enrolled by the end of the 1908-1909 school year. The relief provided that fall by the completion of five new elementary buildings and the enlargement of an existing structure, proved only temporary in the face of mounting enrollments and fiscal conservatism. Between 1908 and 1912, the school population rose by 2,500 students, yet not a single new building was erected. Building enlargements added a mere nineteen classrooms, far too few to house the burgeoning population. The 1912 school year opened with 2,300 part-time students, and the "ideal" of forty students to a class a more distant goal. (39)

With energies and resources concentrated on furnishing classrooms and full-time instruction for the rapidly growing school population, individual student progress remained a secondary concern, until once again, an external evaluation held up Schenectady's shortcomings to scrutiny. Unlike the 1908 study, which was intended for internal distribution among school and appropriate city officials, the latest examination gained much wider attention. In 1904, William H. Maxwell, New York City Superintendent of Schools, called attention to-the problem of the over-age student. Prompted by Maxwell's findings, the Russell Sage Foundation supported a thorough investigation of the subject in 1908 under the directorship of Leonard Ayres. Based on a study of age and grade statistics, Ayres determined that approximately one-third of all public school children were over-age for their grade or, in the educational parlance of the day, "backward" or "retarded." Within the sample of thirty-one city school systems, the proportion of over-age students ranged from less than 10 percent to a high of 75 percent. Among the four New York State school systems, however, the spread was much narrower. Here, the so-called "laggards" constituted 30 percent of the elementary school children in New York City, 32.6 percent in Utica, 35.6 percent in Troy, and a high of 38.4 percent in Kingston. (40)

In 1911, Ayres again returned to the problem. To answer his critics, Ayres modified his data collection procedure and fine-tuned his method of determining the number of students entering a school system annually in order to determine more accurately the over-aged or retarded in a school population. According to the common standard, Ayres defined those children as retarded or above age who were eight years of age or older in the first grade, nine or older in the second, and so on for each of the following grades. (41) With the exception of Quincy, Massachusetts, Ayres' survey revealed that the proportion of overage students in the sample ranged from 33 percent to 50 percent with 37 percent the average. Having 44 percent of its students too old for the classes that they were in, Schenectady ranked last among the New York State schools and twenty-fourth among the twenty-nine school districts sampled (see Table 6.7). Although Schenectady placed low on the list, all the schools had disturbingly high retardation rates. Another aspect of student progress that Ayres measured was the percentage of entering first graders who continued in school until the eighth grade. Again, Schenectady fell below the average (50 percent) "survival" rate. With 44 percent of Schenectady's students reaching the eighth grade, the school system ranked twelfth out of the total fifteen schools listed in this category.

Table 6.7

Percent of Students Above Normal Age and Percent of Beginning Students Reaching Eighth Grade
CityPercent Over-AgePercent Reaching Eighth Grade
Quincy, Mass.1987
Amsterdam, NY2862
Racine, Wisc.2878
Indianapolis, Ind.29
Syracuse, NY29
Danbury, Conn.31
Milwaukee, Wisc.31
Rockford, Ill.32
Canton, Ohio34
Elmira, NY34
New Rochelle, NY34
Muskegon, Mich.3577
Niagara Falls, NY36
Topeka, Kan.3668
Danville, Ill.3868
Trenton, NJ38
Plainfield, NJ4059
Reading, Pa.40
Perth Amboy, NJ41
Bayonne, NJ4250
Hazelton, Pa.4247
Watertown, NY43
E. St. Louis, Ill.4463
Schenectady, NY4444
Elizabeth, NJ4643
Kenosha, Wis.48
Montclair, NJ4866
New Orleans, La.4936
Passaic, NJ5128

Source: Adapted from, Leonard Ayres, "The Identification of the Misfit Child," pp. 7-10, "The Relative Responsibility of School and Society for the Over-Age Child," Russell Sage Research Foundation Publications — Child Hygiene, Numbers 108, 110, 1911, p. 4; "The Increasing Efficiency of Our City School Systems," The Elementary School Journal (February 1921), p. 421. Ayres made available his 1911 research on survival rates in 1921 of the fifteen school systems that agreed to a follow-up study.

Table 6.8

Number of Classes and Enrollment by Grades — 1906
GradeNo. of GradesTotal Enrollment
K8344
1332,013
2271,184
3271,160
421973
518811
612534
78379
8287

Source: SPS Annual Report, 1905-1906, p. 7.

Even before Schenectady school authorities learned to use the methods of evaluating student progress and to cram their reports with jargon and data on retardation and survival rates, early statistical reporting showed dramatically that students were jamming the early grades and dropping out rapidly before completing grammar school (see Table 6.8). The growing concern for the over-age and dropout problems soon began to absorb the attention of school authorities in Schenectady. Until the creation of the school system's Division of Reference and Research in 1913, the focus of statistical analysis varied from one year to the next, making long-range studies of student progress difficult. In 1909 the school administration drew attention to the high average age of the elementary children, particularly the boys (see Table 6.9). The average age of boys in the first grade was just below the normal age of seven for that grade. Thereafter, retentions drove the average age up sharply until it reached a full year beyond the normal age for fourth grade. But as dropouts began and accelerated, the trend quickly reversed itself.

Table 6.9

Average Age of Boys by Grade — 1908
GradeEnrollmentAverage Age
K2825.0
19786.9
26468.3
36699.8
462511.0
556412.0
640912.9
726913.9
820714.6

Source: SPS Annual Report, 1907-1908, p. 4.

A more detailed picture of the over-age problem can be drawn from data showing student ages by grade during the 1909-1910 school year (see Table 6.10). With this information and Ayres' formula for estimating the number of entering first graders (as distinguished from those repeating the grade), the percentage of those over-aged may be determined as well as the average age of students by grade. (42)

Table 6.10

Ages by Grade — 1910
Years — 18 to 4
Grades181716151413121110987654
K23352174
1254121551118242582798333
24218184483221408387792
3710357211424834133848
41185597189245303271668
5545115185304255217443
61749143223220265352
71326818095132203
8450821481082942

Source: Adapted from SPS Annual Report, 1910, p. 19. The figures to the left of the dividing line represent the numbers of over-age students.

[Accessibility note: This online version uses red borders in the table cells to represent the divider. If your browser does not display this or you can't see it, it begins in Grade 1, Year 8 and moves diagonally left and down to Grade 8, Year 15.]

Table 6.11 shows that retardation was a problem from the earliest grades. In the very first year of schooling, 20 percent of the children were too old for the grade (eight years of age or older). Accelerating year by year, the rate of retardation steadily rose until it peaked in the fifth grade, where 55 percent of the students were over-aged. The negative effect that such retardation had on the student, the class, and class instruction, becomes obvious from a look at the broad span of student ages in each grade (see Table 6.10). At a time when students were heterogeneously grouped, regardless of ages, the ability and patience of teachers were strained in the attempt to instruct classes such as the first grade where the ages of students ranged from five to fifteen. From among these over-aged pupils would come the first dropouts, leaving school years short of completing a grammar school education.

Table 6.11

Percentage of Over-Age Students and Over-Age By Grades — 1910
GradeEnrollmentPercent Over-AgeAverage Age
K5494.7
12,16220.86.7
21,26630.88.1
31,21340.19.4
41,25348.310.6
51,17355.811.8
684550.112.5
744143.313.4
842731.914.4
Total/Ave.9,32938.0 

Source: Compiled from chart in Table 6.10.

A major source of retardation were the foreign-born students, who comprised 9 percent of the total enrollment in 1914. Of this group, almost 50 percent were Italian and Polish children who, whatever their age on arrival, had been routinely placed in the first grade until English was mastered. Another source of retardation was created by the considerable body of foreign-born parents who kept their children out of school as long as possible in order to give them "maximum home training." (43) Ayres, in his 1911 study, revealed that late entry, in itself, accounted for one-third of the total number of over-age Schenectady students. A factor over which the school system had little control, late entry was in large part responsible for Schenectady's high percentage of over-age students and twenty-fourth position on Ayres' list of twenty-nine schools. Quincy, with the lowest percentage of retardation, reported a far smaller number than Schenectady of students over-age because of late entry. (44)

Table 6.12

Enrollment of Children of Italian and Polish Born Parents — 1900 and 1910
 Italians 1900Poles 1900
AgeNo. in PopulationNo. in SchoolPercent in SchoolNo. in PopulationNo. in SchoolPercent in School
619631.667710.4
710880.0482143.7
8161381.3533566.0
96583.3342367.6
1044100.0403485.0
1199100.0272592.5
1299100.0282485.7
138675.0211466.6
145240.015116.7
Summary
6-14
866272.133318455.3
1531815.6
16720
Summary
6-16
966264.637118549.9
 Italians 1910*Poles 1910*
6391948.7481327.1
7262180.8432865.1
8292689.7343088.2
9201785.0463984.4
102222100.0413585.4
111111100.0302790.0
1211981.8333297.0
13111090.8222091.0
141111100.0302893.3
Summary
6-14
18014681.132725277.1
156350.0261765.4
1620630.0241250.0
Summary
6-16
20615575.237728174.5

Source: Compiled from the U.S. Bureau of the Census, Federal Manuscript Census, Schenectady, N.Y., 1900, 1910.
* Based on 25 percent sample of Italian and Polish households.

Comparing the school age population of the Italian and Polish communities in 1900 and a 25 percent sample of Italian and Polish households in 1910, demonstrates that late entry was more prevalent among the Poles; but the difference between the two groups narrowed during the decade (see Table 6.12). In 1900, while only one-third of Italian six-year-olds were attending school, a mere one-tenth of the Poles of that age were enrolled. At age seven, normal entrance age for first grade, all but two Italian children were in attendance (80 percent) but less than half (43.7 percent) of the Poles. Early departure from school also characterized the Polish student in 1900. Unlike the Italians, Poles began leaving a year earlier (age twelve), and by fourteen had all but disappeared from the schools. In summary, 72.1 percent of Italian children aged seven to fourteen were attending school in 1900, compared to 55.3 percent of the Poles. Of course, the number of children in each age group was small, nevertheless, the progression of figures are consistent enough to support the impression that Poles started school later than Italians and dropped out earlier. Ten years later both ethnic groups were sending a greater percentage of their six-year-olds to school. Though the Poles, with 25 percent enrolled, still lagged behind the Italians, with 50 percent of the age group in school, the difference in the ratio of the two groups of six-year-olds in school between 1900 and 1910 declined from 3:1 to 2:1.

With the passing years, the number of American-born children of the foreign-born far outnumbered those born abroad (see Table 6.13). Schenectady school authorities observed that the native-born children of the immigrants were entering school more nearly at normal age. (45)

Table 6.13

Percentage of First and Second Generation Italian and Polish Students — 1913
 Native Born PercentForeign-Born PercentTotal Percent
Italian7.403.2210.62
Polish2.40.442.84
Total9.803.6613.46

Source: SPSAR-PCC, 1913, p. 438.

Table 6.14

Percentage of Students Six to Fourteen Enrolled — 1910
 Number Attending SchoolPercent
Native white —
Native parentage
4,20488.8
Native white —
Foreign parentage
4,36687.6
Foreign born white —
Foreign parentage
83887.1

Source: U.S. Bureau of the Census, Thirteenth Census: 1910, Population, II, 243.

Table 6.12 shows that by 1910, Polish attendance had improved until the percentage enrolled matched that of the Italians at age eight (nearly 90 percent). Overall, 81.1 percent of Italians and 77.1 percent of Poles aged six to fourteen were attending school. Because of later entry, the figures for the two immigrant groups are lower, but not significantly so, than the native born (see Table 6.14). Because of the more enforceable compulsory education law of 1903, students were remaining in school until age fourteen. (46) But at that age, the students took their leave rapidly. Nevertheless, at age sixteen, 30 percent of Italians were still in class and, surprisingly, 50 percent of the Poles. But the higher "survival" rate had as much to do with economic conditions as an increasing popularity of school. Coming out of the depression of 1907-1909, the city offered few employment opportunities for youngsters and, hence, the choice to stay in school longer. (47)

By the end of the first decade of the twentieth century, Schenectady school authorities began to take official notice in their reports of the immigrant youths who were crowding the streets and schools of the city. In urgent, often portentious language, the newcomers were regarded collectively as a problem whose impact extended beyond the educational system to the community at large. Frequently, concern centered on matters of health and sanitation. Children judged unclean in body and dress were barred from attending classes until they were acceptable, and a visiting nurse called at these children's homes and provided a sanitation lesson. More visiting nurses were thought necessary to offer these services adequately:

Where foreign population is numerous this is a necessity for protection of the entire community. (48)

Renovation of the Park Place School, located in an immigrant neighborhood was deemed pressing, not simply because of overcrowding and aging facilities but "with a large foreign population it is essential to have sanitary conditions." (49) Finally, city officials were advised that playgrounds were needed for the children in the more congested areas of the city because of the protection that would be provided for the health of all children:

…deprived of chances to play, turned out on filthy streets, makes them easy prey to diseases, and it is in these districts where epidemics start and gather virulence and then reach your schools and your children and you pay the penalty of your selfishness. (50)

Untutored immigrants endangered more than the health of the community. Superintendent Brubacher intimated that the country's very institutions were at stake if the situation were ignored:

More than half of the children in Schenectady live in homes where a foreign atmosphere prevails — foreign speech, foreign customs, foreign manners, foreign standards of life. (51)

In the midst of the conformist pressures generated by World War I, Brubacher, who had recently become president of the State Teachers College at Albany, expressed fears that our national unity was being "retarded" by the "centrifugal forces" of the foreign-speaking immigrants who, he thought, sought "to perpetuate their own social and ethical ideals, to maintain their own foreign standards of life." Therefore, an immigrant's cultural inheritance and home life were regarded as a "daily burden" to the teacher and should be suppressed as quickly as possible.

The foreign atmosphere of the immigrant home is a real obstacle to the work of the school. In that home the child hears a foreign speech, absorbs foreign traditions, observes foreign customs, forms habits of judgement according to foreign standards…

In this alien situation children live nineteen out of every twenty-four hours during the school year of one hundred sixty days. During the remaining two hundred days of the year, the child's entire time is under this foreign influence. The teacher, then, controls approximately only 20 percent of the child's annual waking hours for the important task of education — for the Americanization process. (52)

To Schenectady's educators, the goal of assimilating the immigrant children could most successfully be accomplished by the public school, but the particular method of effectuating this assimilative goal varied. In his first year as superintendent, Brubacher expressed his concern that the immigrant children were leaving school as soon as they reached the age of fourteen. Many, he observed, went no further than fifth grade before dropping out. With such a limited amount of education, the children learned little American history and civics. To those who value the "safety of our institutions," Brubacher urged that this deficiency be corrected. (53) Along similar lines, a later superintendent, E. R. Whitney, noted that since the young are influenced by their surroundings, portraits of famous Americans and

…pictures of American history should be placed for patriotic reasons in all schools but especially in schools where the pupils are mostly children of the foreign born. (54)

Caught up in the excesses of the Americanization movement during World War I, Brubacher, a former English teacher, pressed the cause of mastery in the English language. A common speech, he argued, was vital to avert the danger to "Austro-Hungarianize" the American nationality presented by the diversity of foreign languages. During the first four years of elementary school, all other studies should be treated as secondary to the goal of fluency in English. In fact, the formal study of arithmetic, history and geography could be excluded from these early years, observed Brubacher. To aid the public schools in their work, the zealous Brubacher appealed to the public by saying that:

…such disintegrating elements as the foreign language press and the segregation of foreign elements of the population into distinctly foreign quarters, should be prohibited. (55)

Beginning with the Brubacher administration (1908-1915), investigations to determine student enrollment by ethnic background were first conducted. Table 6.15 shows that between the years 1913 and 1921 the children of the foreign-born became a majority of the student population. While the total foreign stock registered a modest increase during these years, the Italians doubled their numbers and the Poles tripled theirs, indicating for the latter the increasing popularity of public over parochial schools. Collectively, the two student groups had expanded by a little more than 100 percent, from 13 percent of the total enrollment in 1913 to 28 percent in 1921. Actually, the children of the foreign-born had become a majority (51 percent) as early as 1914. The proportion of students born abroad, however, sharply declined between 1914 and 1921, from 9 percent to 5 percent. Of the 1,500 students in 1914 who were born abroad, Italians (502) and Poles (202) together comprised one-third. (56)

Table 6.15

Nationality of Students 1913
Birthplace of ParentsNative-Born PercentForeign-Born PercentTotal Percent
United States53.353.3
Italian7.43.210.6
Polish2.4.42.8
Others28.74.633.3
Total91.88.2100.0
1921
Birthplace of ParentsTotal NumberPercent
United States7,52548.0
Austria4153.0
Czechoslovakia1301.0
British Empire1,2228.0
Germany5504.0
Hungary2101.0
Italy2,99419.0
Poland1,3879.0
Russia6774.0
Others4963.0
Total15,606100.0
Summary — 1921:
Native Born of Native Born7,52548.0
Native Born of Foreign Born7,38447.0
Foreign Born of Foreign Born6975.0
Total15,606100.0

Source: Adapted from: SPS Annual Report, 1912, 1913. p. 12; SPS, "Nativity of Parents of Day School Pupils," January 21, 1921. (Typewritten.)

Italian and Polish students were not concentrated in just a few schools. Together they constituted at least one-third of the population of half the public schools in the city (see Table 6.16). There were schools, however, where one or both groups had a particularly strong presence. At least half the students were Italian in Yates (Second Ward), Park Place (Third Ward), Edison (Fifth Ward), and Hamilton (Ninth Ward). Park Place, with 75 percent, was by far the school with the greatest percentage of Italian students. In two schools, both in the Mt. Pleasant area (Ninth Ward), Poles formed at least one-third of those in attendance: Mt. Pleasant (36 percent) and Seward (37 percent). Finally, the schools with the highest total of Italians and Poles combined were: Yates (80 percent), Park Place (79 percent), and Riverside (76 percent).

Attendance registers provide a glimpse of the immigrant children in the individual schools. At the Hamilton School in Mt. Pleasant, a conscious effort was apparently made to separate Italian kindergartners from older stock children. Perhaps the grouping of these children, all native born, was done in an effort to provide more intense language drill or simply to avoid slowing the progress of others with better language skills, though most of the other children of foreign-born parents in the classes also came from homes where English was not spoken (see Table 6.17). As the older stock residents became scarcer in the neighborhood, this form of grouping could not be maintained. Of the 133 kindergartners in the 1919-1920 school year, only four were the children of native-born parents. Italian children (68) comprised half the total. (57)

Table 6.16

Percentage of Students in Individual Schools According to Birthplace of Parents — 1924
SchoolUnited StatesItalyPolandAll Others
High School566632
Bellevue601426
Central Park Int.672427
Clinton38381014
Edison11532017
Elmer721117
Excelsior676413
Franklin36251722
Fulton522424
Halsey6112324
Hamilton1450729
Horace Mann3845215
Howe7812
Lincoln7631110
McKinley26141941
Mt. Pleasant20223622
Nott24401521
Nott Terrace6031720
Oneida46171324
Park Place157546
Pleasant Valley4571325
Riverside1548289
Seward7273729
Teachers Training791129
Union3842911
Van Corlaer5610232
Washington Irving42171031
Yates1259218
Summary — Entire System45211024

Source: Adapted from SPS, untitled two-page report, February 1924.

Table 6.17

Kindergarten Enrollment at Hamilton School 1916 — 1917
Nationality of ParentsMorning Session (No.)Afternoon Session (No.)
United States16
Italian260
Polish32
Other Foreign-Born5713
Totals7875

Source: Hamilton School Attendance Registers 1916-17.

Children learned failure early in their school careers in Schenectady. In the fall of 1919, 17 percent of Hamilton first graders (1B) failed the first term (see Table 6.18). Italian failures were higher than their proportion in the total grade enrollment, but so were the failures of the older stock students whose parents were probably the least successful of a group that had fled the influx of immigrants. (58) The best results were accomplished by the children whose parents were largely skilled workers at the General Electric Company, and who were from central and eastern Europe (Germans, Bohemians, Slovaks and Russians). (59)

Table 6.18

Grade 1B Failures: Fall 1919 — Hamilton School
Nationality of ParentsNo. EnrolledPercentNo. of FailuresPercent of Failures
United States2410.7512.8
Italian12354.72564.1
Polish198.437.7
Other Foreign-Born5926.2615.4
Totals225100.039100.0

Source: SPS, Hamilton School Attendance Registers, 1919-20.

The experience of a single class in the Yates School, located in the American Locomotive Company area, may serve as an example of how few of the immigrant children progressed at a normal rate through the grades. By the time the forty-six children of Miss Leslie Wheeler's grade 3A in 1916 reached the second term of the eighth grade in the fall of 1921, the class had shrunk to 43.5 percent of its original size. Half the Poles had fallen away, and among the Italian group, three-quarters had disappeared. An examination of the names of the students, however, reveals that almost the whole class had actually melted away. Only three members (including one Italian but no Poles) of the original class passed each term on schedule and arrived in grade 8A together. The others moved away, transferred to other schools in the city or, more commonly, repeated terms until dropping out. After the passage of two additional terms, however, ten more students from the original group arrived in the eighth grade. Of the twenty-five Italians who started, seven reached the last term of the elementary program; and of eight Poles, one made it. (60)

Table 6.19

Percent of Over-Aged Students 1910, 1914
Grade19101914
120.843.0
230.858.0
340.168.0
448.374.0
555.877.0
650.176.0
743.373.0
831.970.0
Average40.167.0

Source: SPSAR-PCC, 1910, p. 19; Superintendent's Report, 1914, p. 23.

Despite the prodding to the school system that the unfavorable state and Ayres' studies provided, and the efforts of a reform-minded administrator, the various measurements of student progress continued to be discouraging. According to Table 6.19 the retardation problem worsened during Brubacher's administration. The superintendent, however, implied what Ayres had indicated earlier, that late entry masked the significance of retardation figures and was a factor beyond the control of the schools. To make his point, Brubacher compared Dayton, Ohio, where 28 percent of its students on entrance were over-aged and Schenectady, with 48 percent of all incoming students above age. Yet beyond these initial differences, Brubacher added that "the curves" were comparable, "which would indicate similarity of methods and results" in the two school systems. (61) Before long the interminable analyses of the relative significance of the contributing factors of retardation became confusing even to the school administrators. At times, the superintendents did not seem to notice their own circuitous reasoning. Brubacher, who had claimed that normal ages were arbitrary and that nonpromotions were the sources of retardation, nonetheless, pointed out that the vast majority of those retained were already over-aged. (62)

The school officials, however, clearly understood that:

The ranks of industry and commerce are continually recruited from this type of pupil who has been over age and below grade in his class in school. (63)

To keep students in school longer (and avoid "financial waste"), school administrators concentrated on reducing retentions. Brubacher had been disturbed by a 10 percent failure rate in 1913, and had indicated a strong resolve to produce better results. The forthcoming improvements were so remarkable and sudden that only what a later generation called social promotion can provide an explanation of the phenomenon. The number of failures plummeted in schools which only a year before had retentions far in excess of the 10 percent norm for the system (see Table 6.20).

Table 6.20

Percentages of Retentions in Selected Schools
SchoolsJune 1913June 1914June 1915
Hamilton14.05.55.9
McKinley24.07.04.4
Seward15.19.25.6
Park Place19.02.83.6
Nott14.57.33.6

Source: SPSAR-PCC, 1916, p. 701.

In the 1920s when the percentage of over-aged pupils had again risen to unacceptable levels, the mechanics of the solution were explained. In addition to grouping students by ability, the elementary school principals agreed "to doubly promote" all second and third graders who were more than two and one-half years over-age and, in other grades, if more than two years over-age. In January 1927, 707 were so promoted and, at the end of the following term, an additional 315. Citing an "increased efficiency in instruction," the superintendent reported that 72 percent of the January group had already caught up with their new classmates within one term. Not surprisingly, he added that the city-wide retention rate had fallen to an "almost ideal" 5 percent, and that the innovative promotion policy would continue until the over-age problem was eliminated. (64)

Superintendent Herbert Blair (1915-1916), reflecting on the high failure and dropout rate that he found on his arrival, characterized the school system as "a playground for the children of the idle rich." (65) Blair, like many other progressive-minded educators, believed that schools served only the brightest students while the great majority of students were forced out before attaining an adequate education. Schools, Blair argued, should be adapted to the needs of children. (66) The impatient Blair, however, overlooked the efforts of his predecessor, Brubacher, who would have agreed with his observations of the public schools, and who, himself, made a variety of initiatives beyond social promotion to improve educational opportunities for the children of the immigrant workers. President of the New York State Teachers' Association, executive officer of a state-wide administrators' organization and a frequent contributor to education journals, Brubacher was attuned to educational reform ideas and receptive to their being tested in Schenectady schools. Brubacher found ideological and financial support for improving schooling for all children with the election in 1911 of a Socialist mayor, George Lunn, who appointed the like-minded Charles Steinmetz, the General Electric scientist, as president of the Board of Education. The new mayor declared that education was a principal item in the Socialist program and that:

Any city that refuses to meet the necessary expense for educating her young is undeserving of being called progressive in any sense of the word. (67)

Among the first reforms of the Brubacher administration were those in accord with suggestions made by the 1908 state survey and intended to aid, in particular, the children of the foreign born, who were being retained in large numbers in the beginning grades until they learned English. The entrance age was lowered for the children of the newcomers (a half year) "to offset the handicap of the foreign language." A larger share of class time was assigned to the teaching of reading, writing and speaking English. The school year was divided into two separate terms, and both terms of a grade were offered each semester to ease the adjustment of the many children who entered the system after school opened in September. Ungraded, including summer, classes were introduced to provide special attention in language instruction to those students, particularly the foreign born, who were several years over-age. Encouraged by "remarkable" results, Brubacher expanded the number of ungraded classes, with the intention of having at least one in every school. The career of one student may show the limited value of these classes for many of the foreign born. (68) On arrival from Italy in March 1920, twelve-year-old Mario P. enrolled in the Nott School and was placed in grade 1B, but was soon transferred to an ungraded class with other over-aged students, where he remained for five years. On transferring to Riverside School, Mario was placed in a regular 4B class, but left school before the end of the term, shortly after his sixteenth birthday. (69) Domestic science and industrial or manual training classes were introduced in the hope of keeping in school those anxious "to do something… the real thing." Industrial training classes were first organized for seventh and eighth graders in the Nott School. Students spent three hours in the shop and another three hours in class doing "book work." The course was preparatory to the trade classes in the high school that were designed to train students for eventual careers in pattern making, carpentry, and machine work. (70)

These industrial classes were not without their critics, however. Steinmetz thought that such classes were unnecessary since they could not match the apprentice school at the General Electric Company. Professor Ashmore of Union College warned that such courses were taught at the expense of "humanitarian and cultural studies necessary to the moral and intellectual equipment of every American citizen." (71) On the occasion of A. L. Rohrer's (board member and General Electric supervisor) trip to the Bridgeport, Connecticut schools to study industrial classes, one Schenectady Socialist expressed a fear that capitalists were plotting to reach into the schools in an effort to make children the minions of industry. The Citizen, the Socialists' local newspaper, editorialized that children "should be taught to develop their brains and not their hands." (72) Years later, when the newly established vocational high school purchased a type-setting machine, the outspoken editor-lawyer, Ettore Mancuso, recalled that he had taken a few boys from the printing class as apprentices and "not one of them was found worth a damn." He could not imagine turning printers out of a classroom, particularly boys who "take up printing to avoid the study of regular school subjects." (73)

Failing to build schools fast enough to keep abreast of a student population that rose rapidly, the "evil of part time" continued into the 1920s. Throughout much of Brubacher's administration, half of all first grade classes were on double sessions. Crowding the work of the lower grades into classes that met for only 70 percent of normal time, provided a poor foundation for students to make normal progress. A high percentage of those retained annually were students who had been on part time. Many students, thus handicapped, failed to reach sixth grade before age fourteen or fifteen. Construction of new buildings in 1914 and later in 1923 provided only a brief respite. For a short while, Superintendent Blair eliminated part-time classes by ignoring school boundaries and combining the smaller-sized seventh and eighth grade classes. With the establishment of the intermediate schools (grades seven to nine) in the 1920s, the innovation became permanent. (74)

Even though part-time classes continued, the combination of the various reform measures, including social or "age promotion," as well as more effective compulsory education legislation and an economy that provided fewer places for the dropout, educational measurements began to show improvement. In addition to the sharp reduction in retardation, Blair reported that greater numbers of students were continuing into the eighth grade. Aided by "slack times"in the economy which kept youngsters in school longer, "survival rates" steadily improved. (75) When Leonard Ayres repeated his study in 1920, he showed a Schenectadymaking significant progress (see Table 6.21). The percentage of over-age students was cut in half, while the number of beginning students who reached the eighth grade rose from 44 percent to 71 percent, the greatest gain of the schools studied. (76) An examination of permanent record cards of Italian and Polish students who were in attendance during the period that stretched from 1905 to the mid 1920s reveals that approximately half completed eighth grade (see Table 6.22). Italians had a slightly higher survival rate than Poles, and within each ethnic group about 6 percent more boys finished the elementary grades than girls.

Table 6.21

Over-Age and Survival Rates in 1911 and 1920
 Percentage of Over-Age StudentsPercentage of Beginners Reaching Eighth Grade
1911192019111920
Schenectady44214471
Average of all fifteen cities studied39265060

Source: Leonard Ayres, "The Increasing Efficiency of our City School Systems," p. 421.

Table 6.22

Percentage Completing Eighth Grade
Italian and Polish Students Born 1900-1910
 GirlsBoysTotal
Italians (N=134)47.853.050.7
Poles (N=132)44.451.747.7

Source: SPS, Pupil Permanent Records.

Because students were beginning school earlier and being moved along more rapidly, the average amount of schooling per child increased, though the age of departure changed little. Large numbers continued to drop out between the ages of fourteen and fifteen. According to the 1920 federal census, only 39.1 percent of children of the foreign born were still in school at sixteen and seventeen. Not significantly better, 52.3 percent of the native born were still in attendance. (77)

Within the immigrant communities, a high school education was not a common possession. In 1924, when Italians and Poles together comprised 31 percent of the total school population, only 12 percent of the high school consisted of the two ethnic groups (see Table 6.23). Between the two, the Polish representation seemed much better in the high school compared to that in the lower grades. However, it should be understood that many Poles transferred to the high school after completing grammar school at St. Adalbert's or St. Mary's. As expected, the native born had a greater percentage of their number in the high school than in the total school population, as did the offspring of older stock immigrants and Russian Jews.

Table 6.23

Ethnic Composition of High School
Parents' BirthplacePercent in High SchoolPercent in Entire System
United States56.045.0
Italy6.021.0
Poland6.010.0
Great Britain (inc. Irish)13.09.0
Germany6.04.0
Russia5.03.0
Others8.08.0
Total100.0100.0

Source: SPS "Report on Nationality of Students, [1924]. (Typewritten.)

Of a sample group of beginning Italian and Polish students (born between 1900-1910), only 4.5 percent graduated from the high school (see Table 6.24). Although the sample is not large enough to make a reliable comparison between the two nationalities, there is a clear indication that diplomas were far scarcer among Italian and Polish girls.

Table 6.24

Italian and Polish High School Graduates
 Total NumberNumber of GraduatesPercent
Italians
Boys66710.6
Girls6911.4
Poles
Boys6935.0
Girls7211.4
Total267124.5

Source: SPS Pupil Permanent Records.

Unquestionably, a high school education must have seemed of little value to the immigrants. The narrow academic program led to such diplomas as classical, Latin-scientific, scientific, and teacher training, and prepared students for liberal arts colleges, professional schools and, for some, the teacher training schools. The high school served few of the city's students. In 1902, the graduating class contained a mere thirty-one members, six of whom were bound for the city's two-year training school. Until a new school was built in 1903, the high school was affiliated with Union College and was known as the Union Classical Institute. Union College professors often taught in the school and the principal was usually a graduate of an ivy league college. Resembling a private preparatory school, UCI served the children of the solid citizens of Schenectady. (78)

With the construction of the new high school on Nott Terrace, enrollment climbed sharply. While the elementary school population rose by 31 percent from 1913 to the mid 1920s, the high school enrollment jumped 361 percent. In the early years, however, the number of graduates was trifling when compared to those who dropped out along the way. In the 1908-1909 school year, approximately 1,200 students were in each of grades two through four, yet the high school graduated only 111, or 9.3 percent, of one of the elementary grades. The broadening of the curriculum prepared the way for increased representation of the immigrant children. But not everyone was confident that curriculum change would spell educational improvement. Following a student speaker at the 1912 graduation who praised the expansion of the school curriculum, a Union College professor extolled the benefits of the study of Greek and cautioned against an education that confined itself to learning how to earn one's bread more easily. (79)

A trickle of Italians and Poles graduated from the high school during the pre-World War I years. Beginning with one Polish graduate in 1911, there would be, by the end of the war, a dozen Polish graduates and a half-dozen Italian. These were highly motivated individuals who, for the most part, avoided the newer course options in favor of the traditional college preparatory course. Several among this small pioneer group won both academic distinction and apparent acceptance from the rest of the student body. Thaddeus Ogonowski, who graduated in 1911, was a member of the debating club and was selected to recite at the graduation exercises. In the same class, Mathew Ogonowski also won honors in debating. Remarkably, both the valedictorian and the salutatorian of the January 1913 class were Poles. Amelia Dente (class of 1916), the GOP committeeman's daughter, was remembered by her classmates as the "class suffragist." As the number of Italians and Poles increased in the high school, ethnic comments in the yearbook (Shucis) noted their presence. The 1917 Shucis described Tony Palermo as "famed far and wide for his numerous improvements in the pronunciation of English words." The 1919 graduates remembered Ladislaw Greskowiak's name as the "class jawbreaker." And by 1923, with seventeen Italians in the graduating class, listed among the group's attributes was, "Class Odor — Garlick" [sic]. (80)

By the middle of the 1920s the number of high school graduates among the immigrant children rose, but nonetheless constituted still a small minority of the group. Table 6.25 shows a striking similarity between Italian and Polish students. Of all those who completed the eighth grade at McKinley Intermediate School in Mt. Pleasant between 1922 and 1925, one-fifth of each ethnic group went on to receive a high school diploma. And among both Italians and Poles, boys were twice as likely to finish their education as girls.

Table 6.25

Percent of Eighth Graders Who Finished High School — 1922-1925
McKinley Intermediate School
 BoysGirlsTotal
Italians (N=134)29.513.720.9
Poles (N=150)29.414.621.3

Source: McKinley School Attendance Registers, 1922-1925; Schenectady High School Permanent Pupil Records.

In the years following World War I, a small but perceptible change began to occur in the relationship between the immigrant communities and the public schools. Often regarded by the school authorities as either irrelevant or a hindrance to the educational process, parents were isolated from the school system. (81) Becoming familiar with their American environment and aware of their growing political influence, the immigrants emerged as an active factor in the school system. In 1919, Third Ward Italians sent petitions to the board urging the construction of a new school in the vicinity of Front and Jefferson streets. Failing to get the new school located within the heart of their neighborhood, Italian residents sought a name for the school that would reflect the cultural background of the Italian children who would make up a majority of the school's enrollment. "Well-educated" Italians and fraternal organizations petitioned the board to call the new building, the Dante School. Skimpy in his knowledge of western civilization, an outraged board member, confusing Dante Alighieri with GOP committeeman, Peter Dente, insisted that no school would be named after a Third Ward politician. Breaking a tradition of designating grade schools after famous personages, the board chose the name, Riverside School. (82) More successful were efforts to introduce the teaching of national languages in the schools. Having yielded to the Germans and Bohemians, the board first authorized the teaching of Italian in the evening at the high school, and later, Polish. The most visible presence of the immigrant communities in the system came with the appointment of local Italians and Poles to the faculty. Hattie Grabowski, a graduate of the city's teacher training school, was hired in 1923, and by the end of the decade she was joined by two more Polish women in the grade schools and Union College athlete, "Sig" Makofski, who became a physical education teacher and coach at the high school. Scornful of Superintendent Pillsbury's concern about "in-breeding," Third Ward alderman, Anthony Rinaldi earned the gratitude of his immigrant constituents for his efforts in aiding young Italian women in finding teaching positions. Toward the end of the 1920s, four found teaching assignments in the grades. An otherwise fiscal conservative, Rinaldi struggled during the depression to prevent teacher layoffs and salary cuts. (83)

When the New York State Education Department was invited in 1926 to conduct another study, this time schooling in Schenectady was not found deficient.

To proceed as far as Schenectady has is evident of willingness to be a pioneer and experiment in an attempt to produce a school system meeting the needs of modern society. (84)

By then the growth of the city population had slowed considerably, reducing the strain on school resources and bringing to a close a period of evolutionary change in Schenectady schools created largely by the challenge of educating the great influx of immigrant children. Schenectady schools, now the equal of other city schools, had adopted the full panoply of reform measures including, in recent years, social promotion and intermediate schools or junior high schools. Creating a higher standard of expectation, the education department encouraged the school authorities to greater efforts in holding students in school longer, a goal that would prove very difficult to achieve. By the beginning of the tenth grade, half the students who started school had left. (85)

Notes — Chapter 6

  1. Golden Jubilee Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish 1922-1972, Schenectady, New York (Chadwicks, N.J.: Privately printed, n.d.), unpaged.
  2. Interview with now retired superintendent of Schenectady public schools (and grandson of early settler, Stephen Abba) Charles Abba, Schenectady, July 19, 1977.
  3. Sister Mary Ancilla Leary, The History of Catholic Education in the Diocese of Albany (Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 1957), pp. 51-53.
  4. The Citizen, September 15, 1911; State of New York, Eleventh Annual Report of the Education Department (Albany, 1915), p. 2220.
  5. Leary, History of Catholic Education, pp. 39-40; St. Joseph's included four Italians among its forty-four elementary school graduates in 1924, Union Star, June 26, 1924.
  6. Schenectady Public Schools, "Pupils Transferred from Public Schools to Parochial Schools Between June 1920 and October 1920," Administrative report prepared on November 11, 1920. (Typewritten.), Schenectady Public Schools Archives (hereafter cited as SPSA).
  7. "Annals of the Sisters of Mercy," Archives of the Convent of Mercy, Sisters of Mercy, Albany, N.Y., 1924, p. 195.
  8. Schenectady Gazette, June 24, 1924.
  9. Związku Narodowego Polskiego [Program of 1915 PNA convention held in Schenectady.] (Schenectady: Privately printed, n.d.), pp. 67-68. The ninety-page program includes brief histories of the Polish parishes and the various PNA affiliated organizations; Diamond Jubilee St. Mary's Church 1892-1967 (Schenectady: Privately printed, n.d.), unpaged; Leary, pp. 78-79.
  10. Ellen Marie Kuznicki, CSSF, "The Polish American Parochial Schools," in Poles in America: Bicentennial Essays, ed. by Frank Mocha (Stevens Point: Worzalla, Wisc., 1978), p. 438.
  11. The Catholic Directory of the Diocese of Albany (Albany, 1904).
  12. Związku Narodowego Polskiego, p. 58; Schenectady Gazette, January 25, 1913, p. 79.
  13. Historya Parafii, Szkoły i Kollegium Oraz Plan Nauk Szkoły; Kollegium Świętego Wojciecha w Schenectady, N.Y. [History of St. Adalbert's Parish, School and College and Outlines of Study of St. Adalbert's School and College at Schenectady, N.Y.] (Chicago [1915]), p. 7. For a discussion of a similar pattern of parochial school development throughout Polonia see Jósef Miąso, The History of the Education of Polish Immigrants in the United States (New York: Kosciuszko Foundation, 1977), pp. 126-127, 228-229.
  14. Pastoral letter of Right Reverend Francis McNierny, Bishop of Albany, Christmas, 1883, Archives of the Diocese of Albany, Bishop McNierny File.
  15. Historya, p. 7; Grace Abbott, The Immigrant and the Community (New York: Century Co., 1921), pp. 230-231; Church of St. Adalbert 1903-1978 Schenectady, New York (New York: Privately printed [1978]), p. 4.
  16. Związku Narodowego Polekiego, p. 72; George Briskie, "History of St. Adalbert's Parish of Schenectady" (prepared for the Works Progress Administration, Writers' Project Research files, 1938), New York State Archives, pp. 1-2 (hereafter cited as NYSA).
  17. Związku Narodowego Polskiego, p. 72; Anthony Kuzniewski, "Boot Straps and Book Learning: Reflections on the Education of Polish Americans," Polish American Studies (Spring 1975), pp. 13-14.
  18. Victor R. Greene, "For God and Country: The Origins of Slavic Self-Consciousness in America," Church History, XXXV (December 1966), 449-460.
  19. Związku Narodowego Polskiego, pp. 72-73; Briskie, "History of St. Adalbert's Parish," p. 2; Interview with Charles Abba, July 19, 1977. In the same PNA program that included a history of the two parish schools it was, however, pointed out that because of inadequate command of English those who entered the ninth grade in the public schools after graduating from St. Mary's School had a difficult time adjusting. See Związku Narodowego Polskiego, p. 67.
  20. Schenectady Public Schools, Minutes of Meetings of the Board of Education, meeting of June 14, 1910 (Typewritten.), SPSA.
  21. United States Bureau of the Census, Federal Manuscript Census, Schenectady, N.Y., 1910.
  22. Schenectady Public Schools, Pupil Permanent Records, SPSA.
  23. Historya, p. 25.
  24. Schenectady Public Schools, "Annual Report of the Board of Education," Proceedings of the Common Council (Schenectady, 1914), p.16 (hereafter cited as SPSAR-PCC). For a discussion of the Polish parochial school as an educational and acculturalization agent for immigrant children, see Sister Ellen Marie Kuznicki, "Historical Perspective on the Polish American Parochial School," Polish American Studies, Spring-Autumn, 1978, p. 7; and her "An Ethnic School in American Education; A Study of the Origin, Development and Merits of the Educational System of the Felician Sisters in the Polish American Schools of Western New York" (Ph.D. dissertation, Kansas State University, 1973).
  25. Kuznicki, "The Polish American Parochial Schools," p. 447.
  26. Związku Narodowego Polskiego, p. 73; Historya, pp. 8, 44.
  27. Union Star, September 14, October 21, 1914; Church of St. Adalbert, p. 8.
  28. Historya, pp. 37, 62, 63, 67; Union Star, October 22, 1914, January 27, 1915.
  29. Letter of Right Reverend Thomas F. Cusack, Bishop of Albany, June 30, 1916, quoted in Leary, History of Catholic Education, pp. 340-341.
  30. Historya, p. 51; Briskie, "History of St. Adalbert's Parish at Schenectady," November 1, 1938, p. 3. Briskie was also informed that the enrollment in the kolegium failed to increase sufficiently; Church of St. Adalbert, p. 9. The bilingual program of the parochial schools suffered a similar blow from the state education department. In 1919 Schenectady school officials reported strict enforcement of the regulation requiring that all instruction in public, private and parochial schools be in English and from English textbooks during the regular school hours. The latter provision, however, did not prevent the Polish schools from offering ethnic studies in Polish before and after the normal school day, SPSAR-PCC, 1919, p. 53.
  31. Leary, History of Catholic Education, p. 341; Briskie, "History of St. Adalbert's Parish," p. 5, "History of St. Mary's Polish Catholic School," 1938, p. 1, NYSA; When Sister Leary visited these schools in the mid 1950s, Polish was heard only for forty-five minutes a day in a Polish language course (Leary, History of Catholic Education, p. 79). Today, St. Mary's is closed and at St.Adalbert's, Polish is no longer taught.
  32. Schenectady Public Schools, "Nativity of Parents of Day School Pupils," Administrative report prepared on January 21, 1921. (Typewritten.), SPSA; The Evangelist, December 27, 1929.
  33. State of New York, Education Department, Report on an inspection of the Schenectady Public Schools, May 5, 1908, SPSA, Commissioner Andrew S. Draper sent a copy of the eight-page report along with a cover letter to Ashmore who was a Union College teacher and member of the school committee that requested the study be done.
  34. Ibid.; The Citizen, April 9, 1915; Walter P. Craw, "The Development of Schenectady's Educational System Under the Guidance of the Superintendents of Schools" (M.A. thesis, New York State College for Teachers, Albany, 1941), p. 21.
  35. Jeanette G. Neisuler, The History of Education in Schenectady: 1661/62-1961/62 (Schenectady: Schenectady Public Schools, 1964), pp. 78-79.
  36. Schenectady Public Schools, Annual Report of the Board of Education, 1872 (Schenectady, 1872), pp. 7-13 (hereafter cited as SPS Annual Report); SPS Annual Report, 1873, pp. 10, 24.
  37. SPS Annual Report, 1875, pp. 10-14, 42.
  38. SPS Annual Report, 1902-1903, pp. 5-7; SPS Annual Report, 1908-1909, p. 10.
  39. SPS Annual Report, 1921-1913, pp. 6-7, 19; Schenectady Gazette, January 30, 1913.
  40. Leonard P. Ayres, Laggards in Our Schools (New York: Charities Publications Committee, 1909), pp. 1-3, 45-48.
  41. To determine the approximate number of students entering grade one, Ayres averaged the numbers of students aged seven to twelve (Laggards in Our Schools, pp. 51-52).
  42. SPS Annual Report, 1907-1908, p. 13.
  43. Schenectady Public Schools, Superintendent's Report, June 1914, pp. 4-5; SPS Annual Report, 1907-1908, p. 15.
  44. Ayres, "The Relative Responsibility of School and Society for the Over-Age Child," p. 4.
  45. Superintendent's Report, June 1914, pp. 4-5.
  46. State of New York, Thirteenth Annual Report of the Education Department, 1917, p. 139.
  47. Conversely, school officials would report in later years that "whenever work is plentiful and wages good, school attendance suffers" SPSAR-PCC, 1918, p. 125.
  48. SPS Annual Report, 1907-1909, p. 20. Selma Berrol described a similar concentration on cleanliness as perhaps a sublimation of a basic hostility felt by many teachers toward the "little aliens." ("Immigrants at School, New York City, 1898-1914" [Ph.D. dissertation, The City University of New York, 1967]). At the Nott School, twenty-five to forty children were given a shower each day (The Citizen, April 3, 1915).
  49. SPSAR-PCC, 1911, p. 21.
  50. SPS Annual Report, 1912-1913, p. 10.
  51. Superintendent's Report, June 1914, p. 4.
  52. A. R. Brubacher, "The Common School and Our Common Speech," The Journal of the New York State Teachers' Association, November 15, 1917, p. 249.
  53. SPS Annual Report, 1908-1909, p. 23.
  54. SPSAR-PCC, 1920, p. 53.
  55. Brubacher, "The Common School and Our Common Speech," pp. 251-252.
  56. Superintendent's Report, June 1914, pp. 4-6.
  57. SPS, Hamilton School Attendance Registers, 1916-1917.
  58. In June 1914, 19.2 percent of all 1B students in the system were retained, Superintendent's Report, January 1915, p. 14.
  59. Hamilton School Attendance Registers, 1919-1920.
  60. Yates School Attendance Registers, 1916-1922.
  61. Superintendent's Report, June 1914, p. 23; Ayres, "The Relative Responsibility of School and Society for the Over-Age Child," pp. 2, 5.
  62. SPS, Superintendent's Report, August 1913, p. 5.
  63. SPS Annual Report, 1907-1909, p. 14.
  64. One of the goals of the policy was to move the most over-aged students into the newly created intermediate schools (grades seven-nine), SPSAR-PCC, 1927, pp. 250251.
  65. Neisuler, The History of Education in Schenectady, p. 163.
  66. SPSAR-PCC, 1915, pp. 700-701; "The Retardation of Pupils in City Schools," American Education (October 1909), pp. 69-70.
  67. Schenectady Public Schools, "Historical Sketch of the Public Schools of Schenectady" (prepared by a committee of principals and teachers) [1919], pp. 16-20 (Typewritten.), SPSA; Mayor's Message, Proceedings of the Common Council, Schenectady, 1941, p. 213.
  68. SPS Annual Report, 1912-1913, pp. 8-12; Superintendent's Report, August 1913, pp. 5-6, June 1914, p. 27; Schenectady Public Schools, Rules and Regulations, Schenectady, 1921, p. 23.
  69. Schenectady Public Schools, Pupil Permanent Records.
  70. SPSAR-PCC, 1913, p. 123.
  71. Union Star, January 15, 1913; The Citizen, July 30, 1912; Sidney G. Ashmore, "A Word on Industrial Education in the Public Schools," American Education (May 1910), pp. 405-406.
  72. The Citizen, July 19, 1912.
  73. Record, June 20, 1931.
  74. "Historical Sketch of the Public Schools of Schenectady," p. 20; Audrey Fairman, "The Growth of Schenectady Schools into the City School District of the City of Schenectady," 1962, pp. 14-15, SPSA (Typewritten.); Daily Union, March 1, 1916.
  75. SPSAR-PCC, 1916, pp. 700-701.
  76. Ayres, "The Increasing Efficiency of our City School Systems," p. 422; SPSAR-PCC, 1921, p. 215.
  77. U.S. Bureau of the Census, Fourteenth Census: 1920. Population, II, 1115.
  78. SPS Annual Report, 1901, p. 10, 1902-1903, p. 22; Fairman, "Historical Sketch of the Public Schools of Schenectady," p. 42.
  79. SPSAR-PCC, 1907-1909, p. 23, 1927, pp. 218-219; Schenectady Gazette, June 26, 1912.
  80. The Citizen, June 23, 1911; Schenectady Gazette, June 26, 1912, June 23, 1915; Union Star, December 18, 1913; Shucis, 1911-1923.
  81. Sister Mary Fabian Mathews, "The Role of the Public School in the Assimilation of the Italian Immigrant Child in New York City, 1900-1914," in The Italian Experience in the United States, ed. by S. M. Tomasi and M. H. Engel (New York: Center for Migration Studies, Inc., 1970), pp. 139-140.
  82. SPS, Minutes of Meetings of the Board of Education, meetings of June 10, 1919, January 31, March 14, May 9, 1922, January 29, 1923, SPSA; Interview with Peter Dente's daughter, Amelia Ottaviano, July 27, 1983.
  83. SPS, Minutes of Meetings of the Board of Education, meetings of December 12, 1916, May 9, 1922, July 29, 1923, September 15, 1925, October 9, 1934, SPSA; Schenectady Gazette, September 28, 1932; Record, July 16, 1929, May 29, June 20, December 4, 1931; Union Star, December 4, 1931; SPS, Annual Directory, 1929.
  84. New York State Education Department, A Study of the Schenectady School System (Albany, 1928), p. 8.
  85. Ibid., pp. 209-214.

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