The History of Cheney State Normal School

History of the State Normal School
At Cheney
Chapter 9, Part A


By Holice, Pam, and Deb

Extra special thanks to Holice B. Young for transcribing book.  The excellent work she does continues to help many researchers!  Thanks also, to Pam Rietsch, for sharing her books with genealogists!


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It is unfortunate that criticism of men and of institutions is too frequently based upon present-day knowledge projected into the past. This method tends to destroy historic perspective and to draw one away from the point of view of the student of history to that of the captions critic who becomes impatient because one part of the social process does not cut itself loose and proceed at a terrific rate. The student of history is as much concerned with the obstacles overcome in reaching a given position as he is with the speed and the distance traversed. For that reason he prefers to leave the object of special study in its proper setting. Programs of yesterday must be studied in yesterday's environment, not in today's. However useful it may be for the sake of study to remove temporarily one organ from a body, the investigator must never lose slight of the fact that he is studying a part of a whole. Institutions do not spring full grown from a brain, either of man or of Jove. They are fastened to the social process, influencing and being influenced by all of the forces which make for social evolution. Human institutions are all tossing together upon the same billowy ocean.

One who picks up a catalogue of the Normal School of a generation ago and smiles at the inadequacy of the curriculum, from the present day point of view, would do well to reflect for a little time. What is obviously inadequate now may have been of great service then. What were the conditions obtaining in Washington in 1890? Why was the Normal School established? What was the work in hand to be done?

The State Normal School at Cheney came into being on an American frontier, where savagery had made its last successful stand against an encroaching civilization. Washington had been a territory for thirty-seven years; the Indians had been subdued and their titles to the land extinguished; the economy of the husbandman, the shipper, and the manufacturer; railroads had united the East and the West, and new markets were being opened; free lands were beckoning to those who were beginning to feel the pinch of civilization in the East. The way to the West was open. Abundant natural resources were awaiting exploitation. The new commonwealth was potentially rich.

In following the checkered career of the Normal School during the early tears to its history one must picture a rapidly developing. State, in which the population was doubling during the decade; the rapid conversion of free lands into farms; a need for teachers that was great and constantly increasing; low remuneration for teachers and large opportunities for them to acquire a fair degree of economic independence by appropriating a part of the public domain or by "growing up" with some line of business; and a makeshift plan of certificating teachers by an examination system which had been brought over from territorial days. Into this pioneer environment the Normal School was launched in 1890. From

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the influence which were constantly brought to bear upon it the Normal School had no avenue of escape. It was but a small part of a developing commonwealth.

If the product of Washington schools were to be trained to teach the oncoming generation, it became the duty of the Normal School to take the prospective teachers as they emerged from the only schools which the state afforded and make the most of the situation. If the requirements for entrance were set higher than the available candidates could meet, it is obvious there would be no students entering the Normal School. If none entered, the institution would be of no use to the state. Until the graduates of the elementary school was enabled to get high-school training in his own community, which generally could not be done until about 1910, the Normal School was obliged to give the equivalent of a high-school course and to add thereto as much, or as little, professional training as circumstances would permit. The requirements for entrance to the Normal School, as well as the requirements demanded for the lowest type of teacher's certificate, therefore, must be directed toward those influences which have made possible the desired changes.

Further treatment of the forces which have operated to bring the State of Washington to its present level of development would necessitate the writing of a history of the commonwealth, a task far beyond the scope of this book. It is hoped, however, that, as the changes in the course of study are pointed out the reader will picture the changes going on synchronously in other fields than education and operating to modify the course of the Normal School's development. If this be done, it will be apparent throughout that growth of population, and the concentration of people in centers of activity, made possible higher standards in the elementary schools and that there gradually came to be a surplus of wealth available for the support of high schools and of institutions of higher learning. The Normal School was swept along in the main current of social and economic development and at last succeeded in breaking the fetters which in the beginning were imposed by frontier conditions.

From modest beginnings the curriculum of the State Normal School at Cheney has climbed to a collegiate level. By 1918 graduation from a four-year accredited high school had become a requirement for entrance; in 1891 graduation by the Normal School meant little, if anything, more then high school graduation means to-day. There were few high schools in Washington at the beginning of statehood. The report of the state superintendent of public instruction for 1889-90 shows six high schools, with sixteen teachers, three hundred and twenty pupils enrolled, and no graduates. In 1894-95 two hundred and nine pupils were graduated by high schools in Washington, and it was not until 1906-07 that the thousand mark for annual high-school graduation was passed. In 1921-22 there were seven thousand two hundred and fifty-six pupils graduated by Washington high schools. The introduction of the high school into the public-school system and its phenomenal growth have exerted a powerful influence upon the Normal School curriculum.

A second influence necessary to the proper understanding of the evolution of the Normal School curriculum is the gradual rise of requirements for the certification of teachers through the method of examination. By tracing the

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growth of attendance in high schools one comes to understand why it is as easy today to demand graduation from a four-year high school as a requirement for entrance to the Normal School as it was to demand completion of the elementary school in 1890; and by tracing the rising standards of entrance to the teaching profession one can understand why the Normal School today is able to establish an elementary course of study which means so much more than the elementary course of study a generation ago. With the organization of high schools one sees the high-school courses of study gradually disappear from the Normal School curriculum; and, as fewer students came to the Normal School to get secondary training, more came to get instruction of collegiate and professional character. The coming of new types of students carried the courses of study of the Normal School to higher levels until eventually the collegiate grade was attained.

At the risk of tiring the reader an attempt has been made to trace in this chapter the periodic changes in the certification laws of the state, the growth of attendance in high schools, as well as the resolutions of the state board of education which touch upon this subject. Where specific citations are lacking the reader will understand that the annual catalogues of the Normal School have furnished the required data.

With this brief reference to the high school situation, let us turn to an examination of the plan of certificating teachers in 1890, and follow the changes to the present. The lower grade certificate authorized by the first legislature of the State of Washington was the third grade. It was issued by a county board of examiners who required of the applicants a total of six hundred credits in the common subjects, with a minimum credit of sixty in grammar and in arithmetic. This certificate was valid for one year in the county in which it was issued. Six years later, when some changes were made in the law, a total of six hundred and fifty credits was required for the third-grade certificate, and a minimum credit of fifty in all subjects other than grammar and arithmetic, which will remain at sixty. No further changes were made at this time. Two years later the number of credits required was raised to seven hundred, and a new minimum of seventy was set for arithmetic and grammar. At this time the certificate also made valid anywhere in the state. In 1907 the number of credits required was raised to seven hundred and fifty, and sixty was set as the minimum in all subjects other then grammar and arithmetic. Two years later was enacted the greatest change of all--that of raising a third-grade certificate to a second grade by attending for one year an institution of higher learning. In 1917 the third grade certificate was abolished.

The second-grade certificate, authorized by law in 1889-90, differed from the third-grade in that it was valid for two years in the county in which it was issued. A total of seven hundred and fifty credits was required to obtain this certificate, with a minimum of seventy-five in grammar and in arithmetic. In 1897 this certificate was made valid anywhere in the state, and the number of credits required to obtain it was increased to eight hundred, with a minimum of eighty for arithmetic and grammar and sixty for all other subjects. In 1899, under certain conditions, the certificate was made renewable for primary teachers only. In 1907 the number of credits required was raised to eight hundred and twenty-five, with a new minimum of seventy in all branches save grammar and arithmetic. The law of 1909, in addition to raising the number of credits to nine hundred, made provision for the renewal of this certificate by requiring attendance of the holder for one semester, or for one summer school, at an

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accredited school, or by requiring sixteen months of successful teaching experience. In 1917 the number of credits required was reduced to seven hundred and sixty-five, the certificate was made renewable twice by attendance for each renewal nine weeks at an accredited normal school, with satisfactory work in three subjects, but to be eligible to take the examination an applicant was required to take nine weeks of professional training in an accredit institution of high learning. In 1923 came the greatest change of all.

"Second grade elementary certificates, valid to teach in grades one to nine, inclusive, for a period of two years from date of issuance, may be granted on examination only to persons who are graduates of a four-year accredited high school or its equivalent, and who have attended and earned credits in approved professional courses in an accredited high institution of learning to the extent shown in the following schedule: After September 1, 1923, attendance of one quarter, twelve quarter hours credit; after September 1, 12925, attendance of two quarters, twenty-four quarter hours credit; after September 1, 1927, two years of approved academic and professional training (at least three-fourth in residence)." This certificate may be renewed once if, during the life of the certificate, the holder has attended for at least one quarter an accredited institution of higher learning.

The fist grade certificate which was authorized in 1890 differed from the second and the third-grade in that examinations were required in additional subjects, a total of one thousand one hundred and seventy credits was required, with a minimum of ninety in grammar and in arithmetic, and nine months of teaching experience. This certificate was granted by the county board of examiners and was valid for three years in the county in which it was granted. In 1895 this certificate was made valid for five years in the county, and a minimum grade of seventy was required in all subjects save grammar and arithmetic. In 1897 the first-grade certificate was made valid in the state and renewable after the holder had acquired twenty-four months of successful teaching experience. In 1907 the law specified that this certificate might be renewed if the holder had taught twenty-four months during the life of the certificate. The minimum credit for arithmetic and grammar was reduced to eighty-five and the minimum for all other subjects raised to seventy-five. After ninety months of teaching experience, at least thirty-six of which must be in Washington, the first-grade certificate might be converted into a life certificate. The law of 1909 made this certificate renewable indefinitely by attendance of the holder for each renewal of one year at an accredited institution of high learning, with satisfactory work done in at least three subjects, or by successful teaching for twenty-four months. In 1917 the first-grade elementary certificate, requiring one thousand four hundred and forty credits, with a minimum of eighty-five in grammar and in arithmetic, and seventy-five in all other subjects, valid for five years, was made renewable by attendance of the holder at a normal school of eighteen weeks, with satisfactory work done in three subjects. As a prerequisite to this certificate nine months of teaching and one year of professional training in an accredited institution were required. According to the provisions of the newly-enacted certification law, requirements for the first-grade elementary certificate are now as follows:

"First-grade elementary certificates, valid to teach in grades one to nine, inclusive, for a period of five years from the date of issuance, may be granted after September 1, 1923, only to person who have taught at least fourteen

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months and have, until September 1, 1927, at least one year, and thereafter two years, of professional training in an accredited higher institution of learning. In addition to the foregoing requirements, the applicant shall pass an examination in such branches as the state board of education may prescribe. This certificate may be renewed for a like period if application is made not later than ninety days after the certificate expires. Provided: the holder had, during the life of the certificate, attended an accredited higher institution of learning for eighteen weeks and done satisfactory work in at least three subjects as certified by the principal or president of such institution."

With this brief glance into the history of certificating teachers in Washington, it will be possible to trace with interest the changes in the courses of study offered by the Normal School, the occasions for rulings by the state board of education, and the significance of much of the legislation passed in behalf of the normal schools. Growing from an academy into a teachers college within a generation has been an accomplishments attended by some difficulties.

Two course of study were outlined for the Normal School for the year 1890-91, the elementary course of two and one-half years, and the scientific course of two years. Professional work was begun in the third term of the elementary course.

For 1892-93 the catalogue announced three courses of study, the elementary course of two and one-half years, the scientific course, and the Latin scientific course. Students who had completed one year of the elementary course, and algebra, could complete the scientific course in two and one-half years, while the Latin scientific course could be completed in three years after completing the first year's work of the elementary course and algebra of the scientific course.

In addition to the reviews of the common branches, students in the elementary course were required to study elementary algebra, literature, united States history, drawing, familiar science, vocal music, bookkeeping, rhetoric, civil government, and school law. The scientific course, in addition to the work in the elementary course, required advanced algebra, word analysis, zoology, geometry, botany, physics, general history, chemistry, geology, and mineralogy. The Latin scientific course, in addition to the work in the scientific course, required trigonometry and three years of Latin.

The professional work was the same in all courses and included methods in arithmetic, grammar, geography, reading, history and philosophy of education, and school economy, in addition to teaching in the Training School.

In these early years the State Normal School at Cheney was devoting most of its time to the work of a high school and attempting to carry on the work of a teacher-training institution at the same time. Until the high-school idea took root firmly in the minds of the people of the state, and the supply of high school graduates began to furnish a fairly adequate supply of teachers each year could not get far away from the work of a preparatory school.

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Standardization of the courses of study in the normal schools of the state began in 1893, following the passage by the legislature of a law providing for a general board of trustees for the normal schools, in addition to the local members of each local board, with the state superintendent of public instructions as secretary, was given the power to provide a uniform course of study for the normal schools, uniform entrance and graduation requirements, and to grant diplomas to graduates. The board was also authorized to grant diplomas to graduates of the Cheney and Ellensburg normals prior to 1893, and diplomas to be issued in lieu of certificates or diplomas previously issued.

The law of 1893 provided that the board might prescribe two courses of study, an elementary course of not less than two years and an advanced course of not more then four years, or it might establish a single course of not less than three or more than four years. These courses were to cover all branches required for state certificates and life diplomas, and such other branches at the general board of trustees might prescribe.

Furthermore provision in the law made mandatory the organization of a model training school in connection with each normal school. All senior-grade students were required to complete twenty weeks of practice teaching in the model school under adequate supervision. The board was also authorized to provide a manual training department in each normal school.

With respect to the granting of diplomas, Section XIII, of the act decreed: "Diplomas granted to students who have completed the elementary course provided for in this act shall qualify the holders to teach in the common schools of this state for a period of two years, at the expiration of which time they may be renewed b y the general board of trustees for a period of three years upon the filing of satisfactory evidence that the holders have taught successfully at least twelve months subsequent to the time of graduation. Diplomas granted to the graduates of the advanced course, or of a course embracing not less than three years, shall qualify the holders to teach in any of the public schools of this state for a period of five years, and at the expiration of that time, upon the filing of satisfactory evidence that the holder of such a diploma has taught successfully at least thirty-six months, the board shall grant to him or her a diploma which shall qualify him or her to teach in the public schools of this state during his or her natural life. Every diploma shall be signed by the president and secretary of the general board of trustees, by order of the board, and by the principal of the normal school at which the holder graduated, and all diplomas shall be stamped with the seal of the board. No student shall be entitled to a diploma from any state normal school contemplated by this act who has not been in regular attendance thereat at least forty weeks and who does not show proficiency in all branches included in the course of study from which he proposes to graduate. Every diploma shall specifically state what course of study the holder has taken, and for what length of time said diplomas is valid as a certificate."

No tuition was required of a bona fide resident of Washington, but each

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student, unless be paid tuition, was required to make a declaration of his intention to follow the profession of teaching. A student from another state, on payment of $100, received a scholarship which entitled him to complete any course of study offered by the normal schools of this state. This tuition money was placed at the disposal of the normal school attended by the student, to be used in buying books and apparatus for the school.

Students desiring to enter a normal school were required to present evidence of good moral character and to qualify by examination or furnish satisfactory evidence of their ability to do the normal-school work. Boys under sixteen years of age and girls under fifteen were not admitted. County superintendents were required to give examinations regarding them. Examination questions were to be prepared by the state superintendent of public instruction.

Library privileges were free to students, but each local board f trustees was authorized to require a deposit not to exceed ten dollars to cover damage tot he books.

The law required that normal-school principals should meet annually to discuss the problems of the institutions, and the general board of trustees was required to make a biennial report to the governor.

Stamping the certificates and the diplomas of the Normal School with the approval of the state as licenses to teach in the common schools was the firm step taken to encourage attendance at the Normal. Before the passage of this step act no recognition was given normal-school certificates and diplomas, a matter of which the principal of the State Normal School at Cheney complained in the second biennial report of the institution. The only benefit gained by attending a Washington normal school in the beginning was the preparation received to take the teachers' examination.

In the first session of the state legislature, 1889-90, provision had been made for certificating teachers by the examination method. Two kinds of teachers' certificates were authorized, state and county. Enumerating the powers of the state board of education, the public-school code decreed.

"To sit as a board of examination at heir annual or special meetings and grant state certificates and life diplomas. State certificates shall be granted only to such applicants as shall file with the board satisfactory evidence that they have taught successfully twenty-seven months, at lest none months of which have been in the public schools of the state. The applicant must also either pass a satisfactory examination in all the branches required for first-grade county certificates; also pedagogy, plane, geometry, geology, natural history, civil government, psychology, bookkeeping, composition, English literature, and general history, or file with the board a certified copy of a diploma from some state normal school or of a state or territorial certificate from any state or territory, the requirements to obtain which shall not have been less than those required by this act. State certificates shall be valid for five years, and may be renewed without examination, and shall entitle the holder to teach in any common school in the state. They may be revoked at any time for cause deemed sufficient by the board. Life diplomas shall be granted to such applicants only as shall file with the board satisfactory evidence that they have taught successfully for ten years, not less than one of which shall have been in the common schools of this state. In other respects the requirements shall be the same as those required for state certificates."

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The legislature of 1889-90 also made it part of the duties of the county superintendent to appoint a board of county examiners--the two persons holding the highest grade certificates in the county, in addition to himself--to give teachers' examinations leading to the following certificates; second grade certificates, valid for two years in the common schools; third grade certificates valid for one year in the common school.

One year later, this act was amended so that first-grade certificates became valid for five years. It was further provided in said act: "Boards of examiners may, in their discretion, issue certificates without examination to the graduates of the normal department of the state university of Washington, or to the graduates of any state normal school, or to the holder of a state certificate or life diploma from any state or territory. Those holding first-grade county certificates, and who shall have been actually engaged in teaching for three years, shall be eligible to examination for state certificates. * * *

"All applicants for certificates shall be at least seventeen years of age, shall have attended a teachers' institute and shall be examined in reading, penmanship, orthography, written and mental arithmetic, geography, English grammar, physiology, and hygiene, history and constitution of the United States, school law and constitution of the State of Washington, and the theory and art of teaching; but no person shall receive a first-grade certificate who does not pass a satisfactory examination in the additional branches of natural philosophy, English literature and algebra."

The general board of normal school trustees, organized under authority of the law of 1893m was composed of H. F. Suksdorf, Spangle, chairman; S. W. Barnes, Ellensburg; T. J. Newland, Ellensburg; Louis Walter, Cheney; C. W. Bean, state superintendent of public instruction, Olympia. On July 6, 1893, the board approved the following elementary and advanced courses, the elementary course being identical with the first two-tears of the advanced course, which included the following subjects:



First Term

Second Term


Algebra (Half-Term)


Grammar and Composition

Reading (Half Term)

Physiology and Zoology

Geography (Math and Phys)

Civil Govt. and School Law

English and U. S. History (Half Term)





Reading Methods (Half Term)





First Term

Second Term

Mental Arithmetic

Plane Geometry




English Literature


School Management (Half Term)

Elementary Psychology (Half Term)

Arithmetic Methods (Half Term)


Observation (Half Term)


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First Term

Second Term

Solid Geometry


Geology and Mineralogy

Advanced Algebra

Astronomy (Half Term)


English and American Literature

Geography Methods (Half Term)

General History

Observation (Half Term)



Reviews (Half Term)--Arithmetic, Grammar, Geography, Reading

Applied Psychology

Advanced Algebra (Half Term)

History of Education

Grammar Methods (Half Term)

Teaching in Training School




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