"The One Room and Consolidated Country Schools
of Illinois," Circular No. 76 Fourth Edition, Francis Blair,
Superintendent of Public Instruction, 1914 (pp. 10-12,9799).
Creating Standard Schools
In the early 1900s, Illinois State Superintendent of Public Instruction Alfred Bayliss decided he would try to stimulate interest in improving one-room country schools. His plan was simple. He would visit the schools, evaluate the conditions of the buildings, and assess the quality of the academic programs being offered. Those schools that met the specifications he set up would then receive a special diploma.'
Bayliss' simple plan for improving rural schools, essentially a review by an outside evaluator, put in motion a movement that would impact thousands of country school students in six Midwest states during the next 4 decades. The Bayliss school improvement effort paved the way for what came to be known as the "standardization of country schools," or, more commonly, the "standard school program." It is interesting to note that today, about a century after the creation of "standards" for schooling program, a "standards movement" is once again gaining momentum and affecting curricular and instructional practices in schools across the Midwest and the country at large.
G. Blair-decided he would continue the Bayliss approach to school improvement. He hired two assistants to help with this effort: U. J. Hoffman and W. S. Booth. He asked
Hoffman and Booth to develop written guidelines and requirements for the standard school program and an offshoot that came to be called the superior school program. Those guidelines were published in the form of circulars issued by the department of public instruction (DPI). Once that was done Hoffman and Booth began conducting school evaluations and spreading the word about rural school improvement. Between 1909 and 1913 the two assistants had visited country schools in 92 of the 102 counties in Illinois. They had evaluated thousands of schools and awarded diplomas and doorplates to the top schools. Some 1,681 schools had qualified for standard school designation and the very best schools-seven-were recognized as superior schools. These schools received no monetary rewards for their achievements-only doorplates and diplomas. Despite the lack of funding the popularity of the program expanded to include upgraded country as well as graded town schools. "To qualify as a standard school in Illinois in 1913 schools had to follow these guidelines.
The teacher had to be paid at least $360 per year. Superior schools had to pay their teachers $480 per year.
There must be light from one side of the room-the children’s left. No light from the other three sides.
There must be about twenty square feet of floor space for each pupil seated in the room, and there must be a certain relation between the floor space and the number of square feet of light in the windows.
There must be no direct heat from stoves.
Every stove must be jacketed and the ventilation must secure fresh air in the room.
There must be cloakrooms.
Good blackboards must be provided.
There must be a vestibule to prevent direct communication with the cold air on the outside.
The county superintendent is the inspector of the schoolhouses in his county, and he is to determine whether the schoolhouse complies with all the requirements. If it does he marks it a standard school. If the directors fail to meet the requirements, the county superintendent can withhold the distributable fund until they do so comply.