Saturday, July 9, 2011

Adding the Twelfth Grade

Oh, my, it's been a month since I last blogged. Could I use summer as the excuse, please?

Vacationing is only part of the story, though. What has kept me busy and away from the blog during this month is the inch by inch, line by line sloooow process of fact checking my manuscript. My eyes can take only so much before they say "That's it. Enough, already."

I have run across a few details that I'll need to clarify. The main one deals with the decision by the North Carolina General Assembly to add the twelfth grade to the public schools. Up to 1938, when the law was passed, graduation was at the end of the eleventh grade. I've interviewed several people who guessed as to the reason it was added. The depression, they claimed, keeping the workforce in the schools for another year. Not for more training, mind you. Staying in school kept them out of circulation competing for jobs.

I haven't found any proof of that, although I have searched. What I did find was that by the time the twelfth year was implemented, the depression was long since over.

Adding an extra grade consisted of more than just telling the students they couldn't graduate. More teachers had to be hired (and paid, during a tough economic period?). And then there was the space issue, where to put the students. And the curriculum issue, what to teach that extra year. And purchasing text books to match.

When the process finally trickled down to the district including Pilot Mountain School, seven years had passed and the world was completely different from the day the law passed. World War II had put everything on hold. The school system could barely keep eleven grades staffed, much less a twelfth. After the war, many women left teaching to start families (remember, no pregnant teachers were allowed to be in a classroom) and the men returning from war found better paying jobs in the private sector. Think "teacher shortage."

So here's the process, how the twelfth grade was added in Burke County:

The eleventh graders graduated as usual in 1944, and the tenth graders moved up to the eleventh grade the next fall. At the end of that year, spring of 1945, there was no high school graduation because no one had finished the required twelfth grade. Oh, there were a few students who had accumulated enough credits, so there was a class of 1945, six or seven members, maybe.

At the other end of the spectrum, the first graders arrived, as usual. So now there were extra students that needed a space. The children from Pilot Mountain had to this date been sent to nearby Salem School beginning their seventh grade year. To free some space at that school, the seventh graders did not move on. Three years later, when Salem School was over capacity, the eighth graders also remained at the school.

And that's the story of how Pilot Mountain School came into eight grades. But it's not the story of the emotions behind the story.

One boy in the eleventh grade class was disgusted that he would have to remain in school for another year to earn the same diploma his older brother earned for eleven years of school. He dropped out in protest.

There's always emotions and consequences behind every decision.

Catch of the day,


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