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Grandfather Education Report
the 1895 school house produced high quality
- Testing Standards -
Compared to the 8th Grade Test in 1895

Could You Have Passed the 8th Grade in 1895?
Probably Not...Take a Look

by Michael Hodges (email)
prepared Feb. 2001and updated periodically, as a section of education.htm

This is a sub section of the Grandfather Education Report, a chapter of the comprehensive Grandfather Economic Report series of mini-reports with dramatic pictures on critical subjects proving serious threats facing the economic future of our young, compared to prior generations. Poor education quality is a major threat to our nation, partly caused by unacceptable teaching methods, and dumbed-down textbooks and test standards.

This is about test standards, compared to the past.

Questions: What percentage of this year's seniors and last year's high school graduates could pass the following 8th grade test required in 1895, even if the few outdated questions were modernized? How many college students could pass it? For that matter, what percentage of high school teachers could pass it? And - - what percentage of today's schools have standards for promotion from 8th grade equal to or tougher than those required in 1895?

8th Grade Final Exam: Salina, Kansas - 1895

This is the eighth-grade final exam* from 1895 from Salina, Kansas. It was taken
from the original document on file at the Smoky Valley Genealogical Society
and Library in Salina, Kansas and reprinted by the Salina Journal.

Grammar (Time, one hour)
1. Give nine rules for the use of Capital Letters.
2. Name the Parts of Speech and define those that have no modifications.
3. Define Verse, Stanza and Paragraph.
4. What are the Principal Parts of a verb? Give Principal Parts of do, lie, lay and run.
5. Define Case, Illustrate each Case.
6. What is Punctuation? Give rules for principal marks of Punctuation.
7-10. Write a composition of about 150 words and show therein that you understand the practical use of the rules of grammar.

Arithmetic (Time, 1.25 hours)
1. Name and define the Fundamental Rules of Arithmetic.
2. A wagon box is 2 ft. deep, 10 feet long, and 3 ft. wide. How many bushels of wheat will it hold?
3. If a load of wheat weighs 3942 lbs., what is it worth at 50cts. per bu, deducting 1050 lbs. for tare?
4. District No. 33 has a valuation of $35,000. What is the necessary levy to carry on a school seven months at $50 per month, and have $104 for incidentals?
5. Find cost of 6720 lbs. coal at $6.00 per ton.
6. Find the interest of $512.60 for 8 months and 18 days at 7 percent.
7. What is the cost of 40 boards 12 inches wide and 16 ft. long at $.20 per inch?
8. Find bank discount on $300 for 90 days (no grace) at 10 percent.
9. What is the cost of a square farm at $15 per acre, the distance around which is 640 rods?
10.Write a Bank Check, a Promissory Note, and a Receipt.

U.S. History (Time, 45 minutes)
1. Give the epochs into which U.S. History is divided.
2. Give an account of the discovery of America by Columbus.
3. Relate the causes and results of the Revolutionary War.
4. Show the territorial growth of the United States.
5. Tell what you can of the history of Kansas.
6. Describe three of the most prominent battles of the Rebellion.
7. Who were the following: Morse, Whitney, Fulton, Bell, Lincoln, Penn, and Howe?
8. Name events connected with the following dates: 1607, 1620, 1800, 1849, and 1865?

Orthography (Time, one hour)
1. What is meant by the following: Alphabet, phonetic orthography, etymology, syllabication?
2. What are elementary sounds? How classified?
3. What are the following, and give examples of each: Trigraph, subvocals, diphthong, cognate letters, linguals?
4. Give four substitutes for caret 'u'.
5. Give two rules for spelling words with final 'e'. Name two exceptions under each rule.
6. Give two uses of silent letters in spelling. Illustrate each.
7. Define the following prefixes and use in connection with a word: Bi, dis, mis, pre, semi, post, non, inter, mono, super.
8. Mark diacritically and divide into syllables the following, and name the sign that indicates the sound: Card, ball, mercy, sir, odd, cell, rise, blood, fare, last.
9. Use the following correctly in sentences, Cite, site, sight, fane, fain, feign, vane, vain, vein, raze, raise, rays.
10.Write 10 words frequently mispronounced and indicate pronunciation by use of diacritical marks and by syllabication.

Geography (Time, one hour)
1. What is climate? Upon what does climate depend?
2. How do you account for the extremes of climate in Kansas?
3. Of what use are rivers? Of what use is the ocean?
4. Describe the mountains of N.A.
5. Name and describe the following: Monrovia, Odessa, Denver, Manitoba, Hecla, Yukon, St. Helena, Juan Fermandez, Aspinwall and Orinoco.
6. Name and locate the principal trade centers of the U.S.
7. Name all the republics of Europe and give capital of each.
8. Why is the Atlantic Coast colder than the Pacific in the same latitude?
9. Describe the process by which the water of the ocean returns to the sources of rivers.
10.Describe the movements of the earth. Give inclination of the earth.

April 13, 1895  J.W. Armstrong, County Superintendent.Examinations at Salina, New Cambria, Gypsum City, Assaria, Falun, Bavaria, and District No. 74 (in Glendale Twp.)"

According to the Smoky Valley Genealogy Society, Salina, Kansas "this test is the original eighth-grade final exam for 1895 from Salina, KS. An interesting note is the fact that county students taking this test were allowed to take the test in the 7th grade, and if they did not pass the test at that time, they were allowed to re-take it again in the 8th grade."

*Sources - this exam information was sent to this author on February 12, 2001 by OkieVan@aol.com, a reader of this Grandfather Economic Report series. Another confirmation regarding authenticity > Sept 2003 email from Dionee Schwenke of Cape Coral, Florida (Dionees@cs.com), who is writing a book about her teaching career and researched the above exam: "I know the test reflects what was in the textbooks of that era, and that it is similar to the test my mother had to take in the 1920s before she could be certified in Nebraska. I confirmed the authenticity of the test you mentioned by the old fashioned way, picked up the phone. First to Mary McIntyre at the Smoky Valley Genealogical Society & Library, 785-825-4624 (got that info from a query to the Salina newspaper). Ms. McIntyre assured me the test was fact, not fiction, and told me it had been written by J. W. Armstrong, the superintendent of Salina County schools in 1895.  They even have on record the names of students who took the  test--and the answers--but they can't divulge that info because of privacy laws. Then she gave me the name of his granddaughter, Mary Laas. 785-825-5140. Mrs. Laas was fun to visit with; told me about growing up across the section from her grandfather; how the family still has the hand written notes her grandpa made as well as a typed copy; how his family once nursed Buffalo Bill back to health. . . I asked about needing permission to include the test in my book and she said go ahead, it is public property now that it has run in the newspaper.  They have had a lot of calls in Salina, not just at the Laas home but at the Genealogical Society as well."

Another good  reference is the Smoky Valley Genealogical Society's (Salinas, Kansas) web site > http://skyways.lib.ks.us/kansas/genweb/ottawa/smoky.html. You will note on that site a link "1895 School Exam" which takes you to the test shown above at > http://skyways.lib.ks.us/kansas/genweb/ottawa/exam.html

Other sites commenting on this exam are at http://www.snopes.com/language/document/1895exam.htm, which does not question the exam's authenticity but questions validity of the test questions for today's world, while also showing an exam in the 1870s - - and, http://www.truthorfiction.com/rumors/1895exam.htm, which appears to add proof of the existence of this exam while questioning (without proof) if perhaps it was intended for other than 8th graders.

On 6 June 2008. Karl Denninger (http://market-ticker.denninger.net/ ) writes > "After lots of research, plenty of people have confirmed that it IS authentic. How about arithmetic? While you can probably argue that some of the units demanded in that section of the test are arcane for all but an agrarian society (e.g. rods and bushels), a few of those questions stuck out instantly given the financial situation we find ourselves in. Specifically: 6. Find the interest of $512.60 for 8 months and 18 days at 7 percent. 8. Find bank discount on $300 for 90 days (no grace) at 10 percent. 10.Write a Bank Check, a Promissory Note, and a Receipt. Now isn't that interesting. A substantial part of the arithmetic portion of the test bore specifically on matters of finance that would be of interest (pun intended) to anyone who was borrowing money! Do we teach any of this today? Of course not! Walk into any car dealer - "how much payment can you afford" becomes the primary focus of any negotiation there as soon as you disclose that you intend to finance the car. And why not? 99% of our government school graduates not only couldn't answer those three questions in 8th grade they couldn't answer them as high school graduates either!"

Exam answers: Since some readers of this page asked me (Michael Hodges) for the answers to the above exam, on 3 March 2005 I wrote to the Smoky Valley Genealogical Society in Salinas, Kansas (Towneranch@aol.com) as follows > "I would much appreciate your pointing me to the answers, if available, to the 1895 8th Grade Exam. Thank you, Michael Hodges." I received this reply > "Someone has attempted to answer the questions on the 1895 school test, and they are posted on the internet at http://www.barefootsworld.net/1895examcomp.html There is an error on the answers. In the math portion of the test. The answer to question number 9 should be 160 acres with a value of $2,400." Shirley George Towner SVGS Salina, KS

The author of this Grandfather Economic Report series and its Education Report chapter, Michael Hodges, would like to hear from others with useful information regarding this and other exams of that era - by email.

A few e-mails from readers >

'I know the test reflects what was in the textbooks of that era, and that it is similar to the test my mother had to take in the 1920s in Nebraska.'

Another > 'Reading that eighth grade exam surely humbled me. It gave me a much greater appreciation for my father whom I considered a highly intelligent man - a Midwesterner, who was able to make a very good living, including putting me and my three siblings through college - with only an 8th-grade "education."

And another > 'I am a retired college professor (after 41 years) of earth and environmental sciences having taught at two universities and one community college in the United States of America.  I simply cannot sit still over the terrible decline in the pre-college preparation of my students and the administrative mindset that the precious self-esteem's of the students merit more consideration than the degree of learning which takes place.'

Repeating our opening Questions: What percentage of this year's 8th graders, seniors and last year's high school graduates could pass the above test, even if the few outdated questions were modernized? How many college students could pass it? Even more important, what percentage of 8th grade teachers could pass it? And - - what percentage of today's schools have such strict test standards that must be met prior to an 8th grader moving up a grade?

Or - - do we just say, 'so what!!' - - and, 'we just don't care that our students come in last on nearly all international tests comparing students from other nations.'

This author is convinced that those U.S. 8th graders in 1895 had no trouble matching or exceeding foreign students of their day. Why do we produce less relative education quality today compared to our own history and compared to foreign nations?

Bottom-line: Like many, I'm concerned about our education quality, and our relative quality in math also compared with many foreign students. The international community presents more competition to today's generation than ever before, and we are doing quite poorly regarding comparative education scoring and most certainly by our all-time record trade deficits, a falling currency - the lowest savings in history - and soaring record debt ratios. We need the best quality education, without question by anyone. That's why one of the chapters of the Grandfather Economic Report series (home page below) includes an extensive chapter on education - - one small portion (this page) of which is that 1895 exam. If showing this 1895 exam causes others to think such as to cause demand for much improved standards, better testing and grading/promotion/graduation requirements, all aimed at improving our quality to assist our young and their nation toward a better future, then, in my view, it will have served a useful purpose.

COMPARED TO THE PAST? Do we care, or not?

Additionally, consider this (from Scotland)

Hi Mike > I think this link might interest you. It should go alongside the Salinas High School Test. It's a standard, modern maths test taken by High School students in Scotland. http://www.sqa.org.uk/files_ccc/Maths_Higher_SQP_Units_1_2_3_Papers1and2.pdf

I've known Americans to think it was a college examination.You would need to pass in 5 subjects at this level to get the equivalent of US High School Diploma at age 17. Scottish Universites have a 4 year degree course starting at age 17 so the structure of the system is identical to that of the USA. A Scottish 'Ivy League' would demand passes in 7 or 8 subjects at A or B. Andrew Stone albanaich@gmail.com

A related issue - - textbooks & teaching methods dumbed-down

  1. Were you surprised in June 2004 when Achieve, Inc., a bipartisan, nonprofit education organization formed by governors and prominent business leaders, found that math and English tests for high school diplomas require only middle school knowledge, and that those math graduation tests measure only what students in other countries learn in the seventh grade? - - should we care?
  2. If 2000 mathematicians and scientists, including four Nobel Prize recipients and two winners of a prestigious math prize, the Fields Medal, deplore math teaching methods saying they are 'horrifyingly short on basics' - should we care?
  3. Were you surprised in February 2005 to read that China produced 4 times more BS engineering degrees than the U.S., and Japan twice as many. Nobel Prize-winning scientist R.E.Smalley of Rice University reported "by 2010, 90% of all Ph.D. physical scientists and engineers in the world will be Asian living in Asia." The International Math & Science Study reported U.S. 12th graders were out-performed by 90% of other nations in math and 76% in science. In advanced math the US was out performed by 94% and in science by 100% of other nations. The American Association for the Advancement of Science reported 90% of math books and 100% of science text books are unacceptable.
  4. Were you suprised in 2005 when the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reported that the testing of 300,000 students nation-wide showed that 82% of 12th grade students were not proficient in math and science - - even worse than 10 years earlier. 73% of 4th graders failed to gain proficiency scores. 8th graders showed no improvement in the past 10 years. (Imprimis, Feb. 2005, page 2)
  5. Were you surprised in 2006 to learn that 65% of 12-graders were not proficient in reading, a worse result than 1992 when the test was initiated. http://www.swissinfo.org/eng/view_from_america/index.html?siteSect=221
  6. If the president of the American Association of Physics Teachers and his review committee say, 'none of the 12 textbooks used by 85% of middle school students have an acceptable level of accuracy' - - and that 'honors high school texts are no more difficult than an eighth grade reader was before World War II.' - - should we care?
  7. Additionally, are too many teachers of math and science so inadequately educated in their subject as to be unable to identify error-laden text books and inadequate teaching methods to keep same out of the classroom? Many make excuses, trying to deflect blame. What action is being taken to protect students?

This is covered in the section on Textbooks

where you will learn about the definitions and causes of unacceptable education quality
presented in picture form for easy learning


- showing dangerous trends facing today's young in other areas >
such as debt, inflation, healthcare, social security, savings, family income -
You owe it to your kids to understand this - - at least its Summary page

Exchange email with Michael Hodges

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Copyright 1997-2010 Michael W. Hodges. The Grandfather Economic Report series is the intellectual property of its author; all rights reserved under Copyright Conventions. Permission to redistribute all or part of this series for non commercial purposes is granted by the author, provided the associated web page address (URL) is included and full credit given to the Grandfather Economic Report and the author, Michael Hodges. Notice appreciated via email.