The Early North Adams Normal School Admissions and Curriculum

The process of entering the normal school was not unlike the college application process of today although the process to become a teacher (and how one was graded) was quite different.

Established through an act of Massachusetts legislature “to meet increasing demands for trained teachers,” North Adams Normal School (NANS) was established in 1894. The school offered three main courses of study as well as specialized certificate programs for college graduated and established teachers. “The Two Years’ Course,” was “designed primarily for those who aim to teach in public schools below the high school grade” and had already had some teaching experience. The Three years Course was designed similarly, though it included an extra year “to afford sufficient practice in teaching to those students who have not had experience in teaching and who are planning to teach in grades not requiring Latin.” The Kindergarten course was also designed similarly to the others, although it was recommended to be completed in three years.

Not unlike the college application process of today, prospective students were asked to fill out an admissions form, take an examination, and declare their course of study. The admissions from featured both basic information—like name, address and teaching experience—as well as more personal information such as the number of living siblings and whether or not the student has had any health problems. A copy of this admission form is included with this post.

After submitting an admissions form, prospective students would be required to partake in two examination periods, one in June and other in September. These exams were used to assess students’ capability in basic subjects; not unlike the SAT and ACT tests. The NANS entrance exams were separated into five different categories: languages, mathematics, history and geography, sciences, and drawing and music. Prospective students were then graded on a scale from A-E.

Upon acceptance, students were required to take classes in educational theory and practice, psychology, English, mathematics, science, and “drawing, vocal music, physical culture and manual training.” The materials and instruction for these courses were followed by all Massachusetts Normal Schools and established by the Massachusetts Department of Education. Students were evaluated in all their subjects with three basic criteria: scholarship (knowledge, expression, and acquisition), teaching (plans, illustration, questioning, exciting interest, forming ideals, and fixing habits), and personality (disposition, motives, manner, voice, language, habits, refinement, attractiveness, tact, common sense, leadership, and spirit).

Aside from classes at the college, students received training and practice at one of the associated training schools, such as Mark Hopkins. These schools were designed to function as normal elementary and secondary schools but would also function “as a School of Observation and Practice” for the students of NANS. Mark Hopkins School was the first training school to partner with NANS and was scheduled to have students of all grades represented, from kindergarten through high school. Other schools in the training program were strictly rural elementary schools, joining NANS’ observation program with the expansion of the college’s manual and rural education courses, which added instruction in horticulture and farming. This expansion of curriculum came due to NANS President Frank Fuller Murdock belief “that all schools, and, most of all, normal training schools, should be in a vital way for the children, for all children, and not for the maintenance of purely conventional ideals.” The other observational schools added as added a this time included Briggsville School, Bishop Rural Training School and Broadbrook Training School.



Outline of Garden Work and Nature Study.pdf / 3.05 MB Download
Admission form for first NANS class in 1894.pdf / 1.08 MB Download