Summertime was always busy at Arkansas State Teachers College (now the University of Central Arkansas) during the early years. Teachers from across the state attended UCA to further their education and complete their degrees. The two degrees offered by UCA in 1927 were the Bachelor of Arts in Education and the Licentiate of Instruction.
There were three types of Licentiate of Instruction (L.I.) degrees: the Junior High School L.I., the Intermediate L.I., and the Primary L.I. The L.I. was considered a two-year course of study and initially it was good for six years. After the six-year period had ended, the holder of the L.I. was required to take an examination; if he or she passed the examination the L.I. was good for life.
The L.I. was especially attractive to those teachers who had no college training. The only degree offered by UCA from 1908 through 1920 was the L.I. The curriculum for the Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in Education, a four-year degree, was created in 1920, and the first person to graduate from UCA with the B.A. in Education was Mattie Brown in 1922.
There were two summer sessions held at UCA during 1927, and 1,165 students were enrolled during the first session, and 426 students were enrolled during the second summer session. By comparison, the 1927-1928 enrollment for fall was 905 students, with 2,245 students enrolled in correspondence courses.
Courses offered during the summer sessions of the 1920s were fairly wide-ranging, and included courses in agriculture, drawing, education, English, expression, foreign languages, history, home economics, manual training, mathematics, piano, public school music, science, and New Testament Bible. The Department of Education offered the most courses of any department including educational psychology, mental measurements, high school administration, observation and plans, standards and measurements and several methods courses.
Qualified public school teachers were few and far between during the 1920s. It was not unusual for a good high school student who graduated from the twelfth grade in the spring of 1927, to begin teaching as a vocation in the fall of 1927, with never having attended college. The dearth of qualified teachers and the inability of most Arkansas school districts to properly pay degreed teachers meant that less-qualified teachers were the norm for many years.
The reason so many teachers were coming to UCA in the summer months was because most of them did not have a degree of any kind. Statistics for white teachers’ qualifications were compiled on 16 rural counties in 1927, regarding teacher education for the elementary schools. It was determined that of the class "A" elementary schools (class "A" schools were considered the best) only 11% of teachers had four years of college training, 11 percent had three to four years of college training, 47 percent had two to three years of college training, 21 percent had one to two years of college training and 10% had one year of college training.
In class "C" elementary schools only 1.4 percent of teachers had four years of college training, .5 percent had three to four years of college training, 20 percent had two to three years of college training, 25 percent had one to two years of college training, 52 percent had one year of college training and 1% had three to four years of high school. The principals of class "B" and class "C" high schools only were required to have two years of college training.
The Biennial Report of the State Superintendent of Public Instruction for 1926-1927 published the results of a survey of all grades for African American schools in 25 Arkansas counties that included 658 African American teachers. Of the 658 teachers, 14% had no high school training and 77 percent had no college training. Only 23 teachers or 3.5 percent were college graduates.
The progress of African American public high schools was slow during the 1920s, and it was 1924 before African American high schools in Arkansas were inspected and given a classification. The vast majority (98.2%) of the 110,853 African American students enrolled in Arkansas public schools during the 1927-1928 school year were enrolled in grades one through eight. Only 1,976 students or 1.8 percent of African American students were enrolled in the high school grades. Additionally, records show that 494 African American high school age students were enrolled in private schools.
According to the 1927-1928 Biennial Report, "In 1927 the State University and State Teachers College opened their extension classes and correspondence courses to colored teachers. In less than two years this extension work has grown from less than 100 to more than 2,000. Special emphasis is placed on content courses, and a majority of teachers take work in the subjects they teach, such as English, arithmetic, spelling, geography, etc."
The State Superintendent was complimentary of the University of Arkansas and UCA’s involvement regarding the teaching of African-American teachers through extension course work. From the 1927-1928 Biennial Report, "The negro teachers are studying to improve themselves professionally with an enthusiasm that is most gratifying. Most of this improvement has been made possible through the extension work offered them by the state university and the state teachers college."
As a whole, the teachers in Arkansas’s public high schools in 1927 were better educated than their elementary counterparts; in white schools 53% of the teachers in class "B" high schools had four years of college training, and 36% of teachers in class "C" high schools had four years of college training.
Improving the education level of all Arkansas teachers was of primary importance. By 1928, 5,150 teachers, or 50% of the state’s white public school teachers, were taking classes at institutions of higher education during the summer months. African American teachers also took classes in the summer months to further their education. During the same year, 1,411 or 64% of Arkansas’s 2,200 African American teachers were taking courses during the summer months.
The number of public school districts in Arkansas during the 1920s was unbelievably large. In 1920 before wide-spread school consolidation and during the days when school transportation was in its infancy, there were 5,118 school districts in the State of Arkansas, according to the 1927-1928 Biennial Report. 1920 was the year that Arkansas reached its peak in public school districts. By 1928 the number of school districts had decreased to 4,598 and by 1930 there were 3,478 school districts in Arkansas. Today in 2014, there are only 258 public school districts in Arkansas, according to the Arkansas Department of Education.
Another situation that was somewhat problematic during the 1920s was the number of agencies that awarded teacher certificates; there were 78 agencies that granted teacher certificates in Arkansas. Each of Arkansas’s 75 counties had a certificate requirement, as did the University of Arkansas, University of Central Arkansas, and the State Department of Education. To complicate matters further there was no uniformity in the qualifications required to grant teacher certificates. The 1928-1929 Biennial Report included an article that asked the Arkansas Legislature to create legislation that would place certification under one central agency, thus creating a certificate system that was uniform in nature.
UCA continues to enroll thousands of students during the summer sessions. However, unlike 1927 there are more students enrolled during the fall and spring semesters than during the summer months. During summer 2013 there were 4,070 students enrolled in classes at UCA and in fall 2013 there were 11,534 students enrolled.
Sources for this article included: Biennial Report of the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, 1926-1927, 1927-1928, 1928-1929, 1929-1930; Arkansas Department of Education: Education in the States, by Frank W. Cannaday-1969; A History of the Arkansas State Teachers College by Ted Worley-1954; Arkansas Department of Education Website — http://www.arkansased.org/about-ade/fast-facts — accessed on April 8, 2014; Arkansas State Teachers College Bulletins, and the UCA Office of Institutional Research.