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Boston Public Library
City Document. — No. 14.
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COMMUNICATION OF P. H. WENTWORTH, Esq.,
IN RELATION TO THE
LATE EXAMINATION OF CANDIDATES FOR ADMISSION
TO THE ENGLISH HIGH SCHOOL, &c.
NORFOLK COUNTY JOURNAL PRESS.
CITY OF ROXBURY.
In School Committee, Sept. 3, 1857.
Ordered, That the Report of the Special Committee on the communi-
cation of P. H. Wentavorth, Esq., be accepted, the accompanying Order
adopted, and that twelve hundred copies be printed, for distribution
among the citizens and for the use of the Board.
Attest: A. I. CUMMINGS,
Secretary of the Board.
The Committee to whom was referred the communication
of P. H. Wentworth, Esq., in relation to the late Ex-
amination of Candidates for Admission to the English
High SchooLj and all matters connected therewith, beg
leave to present the following
H E P» O H T:
YoTJR Committee have endeavored to ascertain all the
facts in relation to the subject referred to them. They
held a public meeting on the evening of August 6th, at
which all interested were invited to be present, and to lay-
before the Committee any facts they deemed of importance.
A special invitation was sent to Mr. Wentworth, and,
also, to the Trustees of the English High School.
The meeting was not largely attended ; but from mem-
bers of the Board of Trustees, from parents and teachers
who were present, and from other sources, your Commit-
tee received such information as was requisite to enable
them to come, as they think, to a clear understanding of
the whole matter.
It appears that public notice of the time of examination
was given by order of the Board of Trustees, stating that
candidates must be at least twelve years of age, must
bring a certificate of good moral character from the teach-
er of the school last attended, and be able to pass a satis-
factory examination in Spelling, Writing, English Gram-
mar, Arithmetic, Modern Geography, and the History of
the United States.
On tlio day assigned, tldrty-seven candidates presented
The examination was conducted in the presence of some
one of the Board of Trustees ; and, we believe, in the
usual manner. The questions to which the candidates
were required to write the answers, were substantially
those used at the examination for admission to the English
High School in Boston last year. The teachers of the
High School, assisted by two or three of the older schol-
ars, looked over the boys' papers, and arranged the results
in tabular form. These results, together with the papers,
were laid before the Local Committee of the school, con-
sisting of six members from the Board of Trustees and
three from the School Committee. In Written Arithmetic,
Geography, Grammar, History and Spelling, each scholar
was credited with what he correctly performed in each.
But in Reading, Writing, Oral Arithmetic, and Map Draw-
ing, the boys were marked according to the estimate of
Thus, assuming ten as a mark for perfect reading, each
boy was marked as much below that, as the quality of his
performance seemed to indicate. It will be seen that
there were nine studies. The Local Committee decided
that seventy-jive per cent, in each study should be required
for admission ,• and that seventy-five per cent, in each of
six studies should admit to a second examination. No
one had that per cent, in each study, and, of course, no
one was unconditionally admitted. One boy had the re-
quired per cent, in each study excepting Reading, Writing,
and Map Drawing, and he was admitted on condition that
he would make up his deficiency in those.
The rest of the candidates were rejected.
A few came pretty near the standard, but most fell far
behind. A result at which your Committee are not at all
It will bo seen, at once, that these candidates were sub-
jectcd to a very severe test. It demands of each boy that
he be good in everything. It requires an evenness of de-
velopment, which must cost much time and pains on the
part of our teachers to accomplish, and which in many
cases can not be effected. A boy may be very poor in
Map Drawing and Penmanship, and yet a very fine scholar
in all other respects.
Some may be excellent in Geography, and yet have so
much difficulty in remembering dates as to stumble in
History. Those scholars who are excellent in everything
are exceedingly rare. While your Committee would
strongly urge that special pains should be taken in our
schools to strengthen those faculties that are naturally
weak, they do not think it just to demand such an even-
ness of development, and yet so complete, of boys twelve,
thh-teen, and fourteen years of age. Indeed, they believe
if all the scholars in the best schools in Massachusetts six-
teen years of age, should be measured by this standard, a
large proportion of them would fail in one or more points.
Should it be applied to the present pupils of our English
High School, its number would probably be greatly re-
The question here naturally arises, were former candi-
dates subjected to a test like this ?
What the exact standard of former years has been, yo.tir
Committee were unable to ascertain. They are inclined
to the belief that there has been no fixed standard. The
articles of agreement between the Trustees and the School
Committee require the same qualifications as are necessary
for entrance into the Boston High School ; but it is well
known that most of the boys received there have not pos-
sessed these qualifications. Indeed, it is acknowledged by
gentlemen, members of the Local Committee from the
Board of Trustees, that they have been admitted without
strict regard to scholarship. The School Committee have
not complained of this, because the school was new, and
tlicy were willing it should have that number of scholars
thought necessary to complete its organization. There
seemed to be an understanding that the standard should
be gradually raised to the required point.
An advance was expected last year; but it was not
made, and the Grammar Schools were drawn upon for an
unusually large number of scholars. Had the Boston
High School admitted as many pupils last year in propor-
tion as the Roxbury school did, it would have received over
three hundred instead of less than one hundred.
The standard of former years, if, indeed, any has been
observed, has been too low ; too low for the best good
of the High School, as well as for the Grammar Schools.
It was the intention of the Local Committee, doubtless,
this year to put the standard where the Articles of Agree-
ment place it.
Their manner of estimating the qualifications of the can-
didates, however, has led them, we think, to require more
than has ever been done in Boston, and much more than
was this year required, as they have been compelled to
lower the standard there, in order to obtain the proper
number of pupils.
Your Committee are therefore of the opinion, that, in
view of the practice of former years, no one could ration-
ally have expected to find in our Grammar Schools, boys
qualified to enter the High School upon these new terms
of admission. And had it been publicly stated, as it ought
to have been, what qualifications were to be required, these
candidates would not have presented themselves, parents
and teachers would have understood the whole matter, and
this inquiry why thirty-six out of thirty-seven candidates
for the High School had been rejected, would never have
Your Committee deem it proper, in this connection, to
notice an attempt which has been made to show that our
schools arc not on a par with those of the adjoining city.
It is but necessary to say that the number of candidates
for admission here would have been but ten, the ratio be-
ing the same as in Boston, and that had the same test been
applied here as there, some of these would have been ad-
mitted, notwithstanding they are on an average nearly two
years younger, and notwithstanding the depletion the
Grammar Schools have suffered in former years. Your
Committee, therefore, feel justified in coming to the con-
clusion, that the Grammar Schools of Roxbury, even should
no improvement be made in them, will furnish a larger
number of scholars, proportionally, and at a less average
age, for the High School, than do the Grammar Schools of
Boston. We do not wish to overlook the deficiencies
of our schools. That they are not perfect is well known.
Neither would we have them robbed of their just dues, and
we but speak our conviction, when we assert that any fair
comparison with schools elsewhere will not result unfavo-
rably to our own.
In view of the fact that no public notice had been given
of the change in the terms of admission to the High School,
and the consequent disappointment of the candidates and
their parents, your Committee intended to propose a re-
examination upon a modified standard, so that the most
advanced of them might be received. They were assured
by individual members of the Board of Trustees, some of
whom are members of the Local Committee, that such a
request would be acceded to on their part. But, much to
their surprise, they learned from a public notice, that at a
full meeting of the Local Committee of that school, called
especially to consider the matter now under investigation
by this Board, it was unanimously voted that such an ex-
amination would be inexpedient.
Your Committee, therefore, content themselves with
merely reporting the facts, proposing no action in this di-
The nature of the connection existing between the Trus-
tcGs and this Board has forced itself so strongly upon the
minds of your Gomniittec during this investigation, that they
feel impelled to devote the remainder of this report to its
By a law of the State, every town containing 4000 in-
habitants is obliged to support a High School.
In 1839, the town of Roxbury was relieved from the
operation of that law by the passage of the following " Act
Relative to the Grammar School in Roxbury : "
Sec. 1st. The Grammar School in the easterly part
of the town of Roxbury shall hereafter be deemed such a
school as the town is required to maintain by the fifth sec-
tion of the twenty-third chapter of the Revised Statutes ;
provided, that said school shall always be a free school,
and shall, in all respects, fulfil the conditions of the sec-
tion aforesaid; and, provided also, that the statistics of
said school be included in the annual return of the School
Committee of Roxbury.
Sec. 2d. — All the powers and duties assigned by law to
School Committees shall pertain with respect to said
Grammar School to the Trustees thereof solely, agreeably
to their act of incorporation.
Sec. 3d. — This act shall take effect as soon as the town
of Roxbury, and the Trustees of said school respectively,
shall have accepted the same by legal votes, and made the
necessary arrangements for complying with the first sec-
tion hereof, and shall continue in force during the pleasure
of said Trustees and their successors, and no longer. — [Ap-
proved April 9, 1839.
Upon the acceptance of this Act, the Town agreed to
pay over to the Trustees towards the maintenance of said
school, $500 per annum.
This continued till 1852, when, it being determined to
establish an English High School, the School Committee
and Board of Trustees entered into an agreement as fol-
lows — viz. :
"The Act of 1839, in relation to this school, is to be
complied with by both parties in all its provisions."
" For the purpose of affording the School Committee
every possible facility, consistent with our duties as Trus-
tees, for visiting, inspecting, and examining the English
High School, and becoming familiarly acquainted with its
condition, and the progress of the scholars, the Examining
Committee appointed by the Trustees shall hereafter con-
sist of not less than three, nor more than six members, and
shall act in connection with a committee appointed annu-
ally for the purpose by the School Committee, in the man-
ner hereinafter designated.
The joint committee to be called the Local Committee
of the High School.
The Chairman of the Committee on the part of the
Trustees shall be, ex ofi&cio, Chairman of the Joint Com-
Regular meetings of the Committee in relation to the
English department, whether for the purpose of examina-
tion, or for consultation as to the condition and studies of
the department — and for canvassing the merits of candi-
dates for election of master or assistant master of the
school, when vacancies may exist — shall be open to all
members of the Committee, and each member shall be no-
tified by the Chairman of the Committee, or the Secretary
of the Board, of the time and place of such meeting.
Admissions to the school are to be made annually.
The standard of qualification for admission to the Eng-
lish department, to be the same as to the High School in
The examination of pupils for admission to the English
department, to take place in the presence of the Commit-
tee of the English department; and to be conducted by
the master, or assistant master, whose decision shall be
final, unless the committee on the part of the Trustees,
after conferring with the sub-committee of the School Com-
mittee, shall decide otherwise.
All boys, members of the "Washington and Dearborn
Schools, who are qualified for admission to the High School
by age and attainment, shall be forthwith transferred to
the same for examination, and not allowed to remain
longer at said schools, unless upon such examination they
shall be found to be deficient in the requisite qualifications.
The masters of the school shall in all cases be appointed
by the Trustees, after having received the written report
of the committee who shall previously have canvassed the
qualifications of candidates; and all repairs and altera-
tions to the building shall be under the control of the
The studies to be pursued in the English department
shall be prescribed by the Trustees by vote ; but shall in-
clude all which are required by the fifth section of the 23d
chapter of the Revised Statutes.
It is expected that the City will appropriate $500 per
annum, as formerly, for the use of the Trustees, and a
larger sum, if in the judgment of the Board of Trustees and
School Committee it shall be necessary.
This arrangement may be terminated by either party,
after notice having been given ,* except that the appropri-
ation of money shall continue until the end of the quarter
which may have been commenced when ' the arrangement
shall terminate.' "
After the adoption of the above Agreement, the School
Committee, in a communication to the Mayor, as Chairman
of the Committee on Public Instruction, say " that they
have on their part effected an arrangement with the Trus-
tees, by which they hope to establish a first-rate English
High School," and " that it will be necessary to appropri-
ate $1000, or $500 in addition to the former appropria-
tion of $500 to the Trustees."
They "regret that they are obliged to ask for so large
an appropriation, but they found it impossible to provide
such a school as would be satisfactory to the citizens and
creditable to the city, at a less rate." This arrangement
with the Trustees was, doubtless, made from motives of
economy, as the city could not support a High School with-
out a much larger expenditure than was proposed. The
actual appropriations, however, have been $2000 for 1853,
$3000 for 1854, $2700 for 1855, $3200 for 1856, and
$2600 for 1857 — sums large enough to pay the whole, or
nearly the whole, expenses of the School.
Why the amounts asked for have been so much larger
than the one first proposed, your Committee have not as-
At the very first your Committee were impressed with
the idea that there was but little power in the hands of the
School Committee in regard to the English High School,
and as they have pursued their investigations that little
lias become less. A glance at the position of the Trustees
will show how matters stand.
The "Grammar School in the easterly part of Roxbury,"
was established somewhere between 1642 and 1645. Va-
rious bequests were made in its favor, and many of the
citizens of the town bound themselves, or their estates, to
pay a certain tax for its support. It was under the charge
of Feoffees. In 1671, the minister and the two senior
deacons of the First Parish, and their successors, were
made Trustees of the estate of Thomas Bell, from whose
will we insert the following extract :
" I give to Mr. John Eliot, Minister of the Church
of Christ in Roxbury, in New England, and Captain Isaac
Johnson, and to one such other like godly person, now
bearing office in the said Church, and their successors, the
Minister and other such two head officers of the said Church
in Roxbury, as the whole church there, from time to time,
shall best approve successively from time to time, forever :
all my messuages or tenements, lands and hereditaments,
with their and every of their appurtenances, situate, lying
and being at Roxbury, in New England aforesaid, in parts
beyond the seas ; to have and to hold to the said minister
and officers of the said Church of Roxbury, for the time
being, and their successors from time to time forever, in
trust only, notwithstanding, to and for the maintenance of
a school-master and free school for the teaching and in-
structing of poor men's children at Roxbury aforesaid, for-
ever, and to be for no other use, intent or purpose what-
It was decided that the school meant by Mr. Bell was
the one already established.
Its affairs were therefore managed by the Feoffees and,
Trustees in conjunction.
The government of one school by two distinct Boards
was not found to work so well as was desired. There-
fore, in 1789, the General Court, on petition of several of
the inhabitants of Roxbury, by an Act of Incorporation,
united both into one. From that Act it will be necessary
to make only the following extracts :
Sec. 6. Be it further enacted by the authority afore,
said, That the said Trustees and their successors shall be
the true and sole visitors, Trustees, and Governors of said
school, in perpetual succession forever, to be continued in
the way and manner hereinafter pointed out, with full
power and authority to elect by ballot a President, Secre-
tary, Treasurer, and such other officers as they shall judge
necessary and convenient, and to make and ordain such
by-laws, rules and orders, for the good order and govern-
ment of the said school, from time to time, as to them the
said Trustees and their successors shall, according to the
various occasions and circumstances thereof, appear most
iit and requisite, either with or without penalties, all which
shall be observed by the officers, scholars, and servants of
the said school.
Sec. 8. Be it further enacted hy the authority afore-
said, That the number of the said Trustees shall not, at
any one time, consist of more than thirteen, nor less than
nine, five of whom shall constitute a quorum for transac-
ting business, and a major part of the members present at
any stated meeting thereof, shall decide all questions that
may properly come before them.
Sec. 13. Be it further enacted by the authority afore-
said, That it shall and may be lawful for the inhabitants
of the said town of Roxbury, at any legal meeting thereof,
not exceeding once in any one year, to call on the said
Trustees for a statement of their general accounts, at the
then last audit thereof, and it shall he the duty of the
Trustees aforesaid, or some one of their officers, for the
time being, to exhibit an attested copy of such statement
, It will be seen from this, that the Trustees cannot dele-
gate any of their powers to the School Committee, or any
They must be " sole visitors, Trustees and Governors
of said school." No doubt they can advise with others,
School Committees or private citizens, and receive any
suggestions they please ; and it is perfectly proper for
them, if they are so disposed, to indulge this Board in de-
signating who of its members shall have the honor of sug-
gesting and — retiring ; but they are to be the only judges
of what is best and proper, and the entire control of the
school must be in their hands. By courtesy of the Trus-
tecs, the Scliool Committee of Roxbury may have some in-
fluence in the management of said school, and by their
own right, under the agreement of June 28, 1852, they can
report appropriations for its support, and send up scholars
for its supply ; indeed, this they are bound to do ; but they
have no more legal control over it than have the School
Committee of San Francisco.
Your committee are strongly of the opinion that the
Public Schools of this city should all be under one control.
Different Boards of Committees for different grades of
schools, have never worked well. There has always been
jarring between them, and the system of instruction has
lacked that unity and completeness which ought to charac-
In Boston, for many years, the Primary School Board
was distinct from the Grammar School Board. The infe-
licities attendant upon the workings of the two, led to the
abolishment of the former, and the transfer of its powers
to the latter. The citizens of Roxbury expect those whom
they have elected for that purpose, to take charge of their
schools ; when any trouble arises respecting them, it is to
their own servants they come for explanation.
The Board of Trustees are a close corporation, having
full power to do as they please ; and from their decision
there is no appeal.
The citizen whose communication was referred to your
Committee, requests that a re-examination of candidates
for admission to the English High School be had. That
request this Board has not the power to grant. Its mem-
bers can only put themselves in the attitude of humble
petitioners to another Board, to which they have transfer-
red all their own power.
This state of things your Committee think should no
longer exist, especially as there are now no economical
reasons for it. They, therefore, conclude their report by
recommending the passage of the following order :
Ordered, That the arrangement made between the School
Committee and the Trustees of the Grammar School in the
easterly part of Roxbury, in reference to the English de-
partment of said school, be terminated on the 31st day of
October next. And that the Secretary of this Board be,
and he hereby is, directed to give proper notice thereof to
the said Trustees.
EDWIN RAY, )
J. N. BREWER, C Committee.
J. S. SHAILER. )
Roxbury, Sept. 2, 1857.