Rural students and the Eight Grade Examination
Children attended one-room schools from first through eighth grades. Near the end of your eighth grade year, you would need to take the Eight Grade Examination to determine if you were ready for high school, which usually started with ninth grade. If your parents or grandparents are over 70 and grew up in a rural area, there is a good chance they attended one-room schools and took the Eight Grade Examination.
There are sample exam questions, review workbooks and some exam results in the York County History Center Library/Archives. See below for my recent York Sunday News column on Eight Grade Examination, as experience shared by generations of York countians:
What was the Eighth Grade Examination?
I recently came across a copy of questions for an Eighth Grade Examination. Some of you might remember these exams, administered near the end of the school year to eighth grade students across the county to judge if they were ready to enter high school, which, in most areas of York county, started with ninth grade. Eighth grade students from each district, usually a township, would be gathered together at one of schools in that district to take the test together each spring.
From what I gather, these tests were used mostly to assess children who attended one-room schools. Perhaps there was more chance of uneven instruction there, with one teacher teaching eight grades, often the same teacher year after year. People I have talked to who lived in town, where there would be at least one full classroom for each grade with a teacher who taught them all day every day, tell me that they did not have to take an eighth grade examination to transition to ninth grade and high school; they just passed on to the next grade as they had every other year.
There are two copies of Eighth Grade Examination results for the Shrewsbury Township School District in the York County History Center Library/Archives files. One is dated April 9, 1948 and the other is undated, but probably from 1943. Two or three committee members are listed at the top of each report. I don’t know what roles these committee members filled.
There were 29 pupils listed alphabetically on the first, probably 1943, Shrewsbury Township report. Their ages ranged from 11 to 16. The schools were Barren Hill, Bowser’s, Fissel’s, Gerbrick’s, Kenney’s, King’s, Kratz’s, Ruhl’s, Seitzland, Seitz’s and White Oak. There is a wide range of subjects: Arithmetic, Spelling & Vocabulary, Reading & Literature, Language & Grammar, Geography & Science, History & Civics, Health and Music, as well as a Total Points column. The highest possible score for each category is typed across the top, making it easy to rank the scores. There is no indication as to which students went on to ninth grade, probably those scoring over a predetermined number of points.
Columns on the 1948 report list 22 pupils’ names, chronological ages in years and months, educational ages in years and months, grades assigned [promoted to], schools being attended and scores in each subject. The subjects tested were Reading, Arithmetic Problems, Arithmetic Fundamentals, Spelling, English Capitalization, English Punctuation and English Usage. I wonder why this is a narrower range of subjects than five years earlier, with only aspects of English and math now stressed. The schools listed were the same as in 1943, except Barren Hill, Gerbrick’s, Kratz’s and White Oak are missing. The chronological ages of the students ranged from 12 years and four months to 15 years and 10 months, and the educational age from 10 years and 10 months up to 16 years plus. The educational age was probably determined by a formula based on the test scores. All students except one were assigned to the ninth grade. Some nines are penciled in, whereas everything else is typed into the form; perhaps other factors figured into the final decision on promotion. The test seems to have been fairly difficult, with only two students scoring over 300, at 306 and 320, out of a possible 400 points.
YCHC also has a set of eight Warp’s Review Workbooks in Simple Language. These particular books, colorfully bound in heavy paper, were published by Warp Publishing Company, Minden, Nebraska and dated 1940 to 1942. The introduction to each workbook says it is book four in a series of review workbooks for grades five, six, seven and eight. Since these were purchased locally by the donor at a public sale, and all eight are for eighth grade review, I am guessing that they could have been used by an area rural school teacher to prepare his or her students for the annual Eighth Grade Examination.
The subjects of the eight review workbooks are: Physiology [Health]; American History; Geography, Eastern Hemisphere; Geography, Western Hemisphere; Civics; Grammar and Science. Each has a short introduction about the subject. Answer keys are provided as separate little booklets tucked into each workbook.
One paragraph from the Arithmetic workbook introduction reads in part: “Modern mathematical instruction for grade eight includes, in addition to the study of arithmetic, the study of geometric forms and figures, scale drawing, graphs, equations, metric measures and ratio and proportion.” The Arithmetic book units are: Review of Fundamentals of Arithmetic, A Review of Percentage, Borrowing Money, Saving and Investing Money, Paying the Cost of Government, Finding Squares and Square Root, Study of Geometric Figures, Studying Solids, Study of Metric Measures, Solving Equations, Studying Ration and Proportion and Using Arithmetic in Everyday Life.
The recently discovered exam is for 1934. It consists of one page for each of five subjects: Arithmetic, Civics, English, Geography, Health and U.S. History. Here is a sample question from each category: Arithmetic—An agent received $89 for selling goods at 2% commission. Find the amount of sales and the net proceeds. Civics—County taxes are levied by the Assessor, Treasurer or Commissioners? English—The man (blank) hardly walk (couldn’t or could). Geography—A river system is (blank). Health—The conversion of digested food into living tissue is (blank). U.S. History—What is the 21st amendment to our Constitution? The questions were a mix of multiple choice, true of false and fill in the blank.
How do you think you would do? Copies of the test and review workbooks are in the manuscript files at the York County History Center. If you have any information to add, such as when the Eighth Grade Examination was no longer required, please contact me at the email address below. It was probably phased out in the 1950s as school districts consolidated, making one-room schools with eight grades together obsolete, providing a more even learning environment across a district.
If you have any particular memories of the Eight Grade Examination, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.