Teacher Certification Testing

Testing of teachers and students is at times a hot topic, so what did they do to certify teachers a hundred years ago when teachers didn’t attend college four years to get a teaching degree.

While sorting through some old records my wife came upon a copy of her grandmother’s teaching certificate.  I researched it a little and found that to get an Iowa teaching certificate in 1917  my wife’s grandmother (grandmother in-law?) had to pass the county certification test in several areas with a 75% correct on the individual tests and an average of 80%. She had attended the Iowa Teachers College, now The University of Northern Iowa for a 6 week course in the summer of 1916 to prepare. After the test she was issued a “2nd Grade” Certificate based on her  teaching experience, scores  and schooling.  The  “2nd Grade” Certificate entitled her to teach for 2 years, not teach 2nd grade.   It could be renewed after two years by re-taking the test or showing that she had received additional schooling in teaching.

The subjects covered on the county test were: Didactics,Reading,Orthography,Writing,Arithmetic,Geography,Grammar,U.S. History,Music,Physiology,El. Agriculture, and Domestic Science.



El. Agriculture ?

Domestic Science?

Pass the test? I don’t even know what didactics and orthography are, let alone where in Iowa you would find, “Uniform County.” In this case I wasn’t born too late to be a teacher because if I had to take this test I would have been sweeping floors instead of sweeping kids off their feet with my breathtaking lessons . Not to mention the fact that county board of education then published your test scores  on your certificate and probably required you to post your certification in your classroom, so everyone could see “Why Johnny Can’t Read”(teachers  over 60 years old will get this, for the rest of you look it up  under didactics).

I found that didactics is defined as ” pedagogy” which is further defined as the, “science of teaching” while orthography is defined as spelling and punctuation and some other arcane stuff that I’ve never really gotten anyway.  El. Agriculture couldn’t be found in the dictionary but with the “El” in front of it I’m thinking it probably had something to do with teaching Spanish and I guess Domestic Science has something to do with guys like Edison and Franklin instead of foreign scientists like Pasteur and Jenner.  Oh and by the way the uniform on the certificate meant uniform not Uniform. I’ll bet you can tell from my pithy analysis of these words my scores on this test would have been much higher than my grandmother in-law’s

I hope that its now quite  clear that I didn’t fall off the teaching turnip truck yesterday.

The rules for certification in 1917 can be found in the Official Iowa Record at the link below  on page 222. The next page in the Official Iowa Record (223) at this URL details the formation of the Iowa Teachers Association, and notes that one of the first meetings of this association was canceled because no one showed up.  Teacher’s meetings apparently haven’t changed that much over the years or there were lots of coaches in the Association.

If you have time flip through some pages at this interesting URL, for example the rules for the”Inspector of Bees” are just a few pages away

For a real test of your skill level try typing in the URL instead of clicking it!

©2011  Richard Safris







About safrisri

I was a school teacher until retirement. I have taught at all educational levels from pre-school to college. My college degree is general science which I arrived at after 5 years and 5 different majors. A degree as it turns out, almost as valuable and in demand as one in Neo-Bulgarian Mythology. I have been around education for around 40 years and can remember when teaching was a pleasant, happy and creative job and our schools were the same. Now I'm the guy sitting on the porch with an opinion on everything.
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