For the Love of School

Originally published on genealogyatheart.blogspot.com on 1 Oct 2015.

I’ve been blogging a lot about education as I’ve shared my husband’s grandmother’s 8th grade final exams. As I continue to do research for the Kinship Determination paper in fulfillment of one of the portfolio requirements for obtaining accreditation as a Certified Genealogist, I found several references to a severe teacher in the early 1800’s in Pennsylvania.  I can’t share much due to following the directions for the submission but it’s hard for me to get the meanness of that teacher out of my brain!  He was well remembered nearly 50 years after he taught but those memories from his students weren’t at all pleasant.

We hear so much today about infusing rigor and insuring accountability in public education.  In the earlier days of our country, that was not a concern. Developing “good” citizens was what was most important. There were no teacher certification programs, curriculum standards or laws related to compulsory student attendance.  Yet students learned.  We moved from an agrarian society to a factory model and now, to a technological one.  Certainly different skills are needed today than in the early 1800’s, however, the basics are just as relevant as they were in the past. Instilling a desire to become a lifelong learner and teaching a student how to seek out needed information remains vitally important.

My grandfather received little formal education in his native Austria-Hungary (now Croatia).  Today, we would consider him to be illiterate.  My grandmother received 3 years of formal public education in the United States after she emigrated.  My mother was the oldest child of this immigrant couple. Mom received little educational support at home as the focus was on bringing money into the household to insure security.

My mother’s elementary school years were at Glen Park Elementary in Gary, Lake County, Indiana:

Glen Park Elementary School, Gary, Indiana

I took this photo when I last visited the area in December 2001.  My mom had wonderful memories of the warm teachers who instilled in her not only the basics but the culture of the community.  Mom said she cried when she graduated from the school and had to attend Franklin Junior High.  She was taken under the wing of the Home Economics teacher at Franklin and continued to love school.

Unfortunately, the Great Recession occurred and it was necessary for her to help her family financially so mom quit attending Lew Wallace High School in 10th grade to go to work.  At the time, she was the most educated individual in her family.

Being a second generation away from immigration, my educational experiences were very different than my mothers.  Noncompulsory kindergarten was available so I attended a church school’s half day morning program.  I was fortunate to start my schooling with a phenomenal teacher, Bethel Ebelglebin Mattingly.  “Miss E” was the founder of the Jack and Jill Academy at Augustana Lutheran Church in Hobart, Indiana.  I was reading, printing and could add and subtract two digit numbers by the time I finished her program. Once a month we went on a field trip – to the community library, the movie theatre (where Miss E. had kicked off her shoes and they happened to roll down the aisle.  We had a hunt to find them when the movie ended!), my father’s farm, picnic in the park, and fishing at Lake George are all fond memories.  The most important skill Miss E. taught us, though, was how to work with others.

One morning, about a month into the school year, Miss E. decided to move student seats around.  I was devastated to be moved away from my then best friend, Melanie, and placed between two boys.  These boys were alot slower than I was academically and would probably be called ADHD today.  When my mom picked me up from school I informed her I wasn’t going back if I had to sit at the new table.  Mom said that Miss E was very smart and must have a good reason to have made the seat changes so we had to respect the decision.  I didn’t care, I was not going to go back.  I had been bumped into all morning long, had felt the need to pick up all the crayons they dropped and didn’t like the noises they made.  Mom said she would speak with Miss E. but I was going back to school.

Mom followed through on her promise.  I stayed the next morning and was sure my seat would be changed. Except it wasn’t.  Mid-morning when the class went out for recess Miss E. told me we needed “a chat.” She explained to me that I was a model student and that she had hoped that I would help out the boys who needed to develop some of the skills that I had.  She asked if I wanted to be a teacher some day.  I told her I was going to be a cowgirl.  Miss E. said sitting between the boys would help me be a better cowgirl as cows needed extra effort to get them to go where you wanted.  Personally, I didn’t understand how the boys needed to be moved along like cattle nor did I care to move them but Miss E. was so kind and made me understand that the class was a team and we needed to move forward together.  My seat remained and I learned to get along.

Mrs. Mattingly passed away in 2009.  We kept in touch over the years and she was very pleased to learn that I did, indeed, become an educator and not a cowgirl.  Towards the end of her life, we would chat monthly.  If she called me when I wasn’t home she would leave a message on my answering machine that said, “This is Miss E.  I’m sorry I missed you, Lori dear.  I hope you’re being a good girl.  We’ll talk soon.”

My husband loved those messages since I still tend to be feisty (as the Walgreens clerk labeled me last Sunday but that’s another story) and he still kids me about being a “good girl.”  He saved on tape one of the last messages she left and I’m so glad he did.

Below is a picture of Mrs. Mattingly on her birthday:

Bethel Ebleglebin Mattingly

My parents separated during my kindergarten year so my mother and I moved back to the family home in Glen Park.  The next 8 years were spent at St. Mark’s School.  Grades 1-4 were in the old building and grades 5-8 were in what was then the new building (below).  Only headstart is offered currently:

Former St. Marks Roman Catholic School, Gary, Indiana

Although I received a rigorous education at St. Marks it didn’t include the loving nature of Miss E.  Our early grades had 50 students in a class, 2 classes per grade level so the teachers didn’t have alot of time for warm and fuzzy.  My teachers were either extremely old and I was in the last class they were teaching, or very young and they didn’t have the process of running a classroom down.  I had one exceptional teacher in middle school who left to seek fame and fortune in California and was never heard from again.

I developed a great dislike of math due to an incident at the chalkboard below (which is now a church office):

Former 1st Grade Classroom, St. Marks Roman Catholic School, Gary, Indiana

Our teacher would place math problems on the board and we had to go up to the board in line based on the row she called to complete the problem.  I didn’t like the feel of chalk on my hands and I hated the squeak it made.  My goal was to get done as quick as possible.  I was able to do that by figuring out which problem I would get ahead of time, calculating the answer in my head and then quickly writing the answer and returning to my seat.  Except one late fall day the student in front of me needed to tie his shoe so Sister Martina made him get out of line and told me to go around him.  I did and went to what should have been my problem. Sister told me to move to what would have been his problem.  I completely blanked out.  I stood there and couldn’t process.  She spoke louder to me which didn’t help.  I began to cry.  She told me I could stand there until I got the answer.  This wasn’t said in a threatening way but I felt added pressure to complete what I couldn’t so I cried louder.  Some sweet girl whispered the answer and I wrote it down and returned to my seat.  I decided that moment that I didn’t like math, would never like math and couldn’t do math.  I’ve been battling those thoughts ever since. I know I’m not alone; I guess that’s why I relate so well to the comment my husband’s grandmother wrote on her failed 8th grade Algebra exam “Not that old story again!”  (see blog of 10 Sep 2015 More of Elsie’s Exams – An Indiana 1910 End of Course Math Assessment)

In reflecting on my education, what I know of my mom’s, and Elsie’s from her exams, I’ve reached the conclusion that the most important part of education is not the rigor of the curriculum.  What matters most is that the student feels it’s safe to tackle the rigor and that the instructor listens and cares.

Funny how this is apparent in the historical records, too, but widely ignored. Reminds me of the quote by George Santayana,

“Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

In education we constantly look for the new big idea instead of looking to the past and finding the answer was there all the time.

Elsie’s Music Exam

Originally published on genealogyatheart.blogspot.com on 27 Sep 2015.

Below is a copy of Elsie Johnson’s 8th grade music final from 1910, Lake County, Indiana School District.  Music is taught today as an optional elective and the course title would be either Chorus, Band or Orchestra.  Classical composers aren’t usually covered, either, as “noted musicians.”

The music class content is extremely basic, much like is taught in our elementary curriculum today:

This is the last document I have on Elsie’s school experience.  In addition to the final exams I’ve published (Reading, Grammar, Math, Geography, History and Music) Elsie was tested on spelling and penmanship.

Ahh, penmanship.  In Florida, penmanship is no longer taught.  I’m sure, like many of you dear readers, you learned cursive using the Palmer method.  D’Nealian became in vogue in the 1990’s as it was a transition between printing and cursive.  In the last 5 years, cursive is no longer taught in elementary in Florida.  The reasoning is that keyboarding is more important, printing is more legible, there is less time due to the increase in rigor of core courses and a student can learn cursive on their own.  It will be interesting to see if signature lines disappear from documents when the present generation reaches adulthood!

Elsie’s History

Originally published on genealogyatheart.blogspot.com on 24 Sep 2015.

Elsie Johnson was my husband’s maternal grandmother.  She graduated as an 8th grader in 1910 from the Hobart Township, Lake County, Indiana school district.  With the start of a new school year I’ve been posting her final exams and comparing education then to now – 105 years later.

In 8th grade today in Florida, students continue to study American History.  The difference is they have a whole lot more history to learn since Elsie’s day!  I was surprised to see that Elsie’s test only measured through the Colonial Period.  No American Revolution, War of 1812, Civil War, Spanish American War or Reconstruction.

Perhaps the focus on the French and Indian War was due to Indiana’s location.  Father Marquette and many fur traders were the earliest Europeans in Elsie’s region. I was surprised that Elsie’s answer to the cause of the French and Indian War was slavery.  Huh?  It wasn’t marked wrong, either. My answer would have been similar to that of today’s historians, “The war began because Britain felt they needed to prevent the French from gaining control over trade and territories that the British thought were rightfully theirs.1″

I believe that tension between France and Great Britain was even the primary reason noted back in Elsie’s day as I was recently reading a speech written for the American Centennial (1886) that was presented in Franklin, Pennsylvania and the author stated that the French, worried about the British moving farther west, had told local Native American tribes to distrust the settlers, thus causing attacks on homesteaders and thus began the war.

I was quite surprised to see a question (#2) regarding naming and locating 3 early colleges.  Eighth grade was the terminal year of education for most students in Indiana at the time.  Was this a way to encourage further education?  I laughed when I saw that question because that is something I currently do with my 7th and 8th graders but I require them to explore 20 colleges.  My thinking is it’s never too early to start post-secondary exploration!  

On page 2 of the exam Elsie writes “god” and it wasn’t corrected to show capitalization.  For awhile in the education world (early 1990’s), points were taken off if English usage wasn’t also correct. Clearly, the exam only measured the history curriculum.

1“The French & Indian War.” Ushistory.org. Independence Hall Association, n.d. Web. 23 Sept. 2015.

Elsie’s Exams – A 1910 Geography Final

Originally published on genealogyatheart.blogspot.com on 20 Sep 2015.

Elsie Johnson was an 8th grade student in Hobart Township, Lake County, Indiana in 1910.  My past several posts have been highlighting her state mandated final exams.  Today the focus is geography.

The test questions are glued to the upper left hand corner.  It appears that 8th graders were required to complete the 7th and 8th grade year questions.  I like that as retention of material presented in the previous year can be measured.

The continents of Africa and Australia were studied extensively in 7th grade.  The 8th grade test questions were determined by the teacher; please view the third test page for those responses.  In 8th grade, students studied South America and Asia.  How interesting Europe is barely mentioned, especially since many of Elsie’s generation would find themselves there in just a few years under the adverse circumstances of World War I!  I also find it odd that there is such a limited study of North America and no mention of Antarctica,

Geography is still taught in middle school today through Social Studies but recently in Florida, civics was incorporated into the 7th grade curriculum which cut out some Asia and Africa material.  Those lessons were transferred to high school.  Since Elsie terminated her education in 8th grade, she would not have learned those lessons today.

Of all the tests analyzed I have the most criticism for this one.  Question 7 hints at an answer for question 2.  Question 10 asks about tobacco.  My readers know that the dangers of tobacco use was a test question on Elsie’s Physiology exam.  I equate asking where tobacco was grown to asking today’s students where heroin is produced.  To test knowledge of export items I think other crops could have been selected.

My most surprising reaction was to item 9. I understand that the test was developed in 1910  but I still was shocked at asking students to classify people based on color. Was the objective to make geography “scientific” as in the world of science where one would classify species?  I don’t know.

Think about this – the test was administered during the Jim Crow, 45 years after the end of the Civil War.  It took another 50 years, the 1960’s, before this thought process began to change and yet we still classify students. Today, parents are asked if their children are Asian, Hispanic, Multi, Native American with Black and White remaining as options.

Genealogists know that the vast majority of our DNA is multi.  My blue eyed blonde hubby shows ancestry from Chad yet he would be classified as white.  I personally think it’s time to move past the labels.  I understand in the health world nationality can be important in identying serious health conditions that need to be addressed.  Yet, looking at someone’s skin tone could miss important information, such as sickle cell anemia or lack of Vitamin D absorption. Beyond health, there is no reason to be concerned with skin color.

As the world’s first melting pot, I think it’s time that the US moved beyond racial classification.  With the current changes taking place in Europe, I think the US needs to set this practice into a new direction. In 100 years from now what will the genealogical community say about us as a society?

1910 Indiana Science Test

Originally published on genealogyatheart.blogspot.com on 17 Sep 2015.

The Back to Basics movement in the U.S. likes to emphasize the teaching of only Reading, Writing and Arithmetic as harkening back to early American education’s curriculum.  By the early 1900’s, however, Science, History, Geography and Music were also taught.  Today I’m going to share with you Elsie Johnson, my husband’s maternal grandmother’s 8th grade end of year Indiana state assessment in science. Evidently, the area of physiology was the curriculum focus.

In middle school today, physiology is a part of both science and health.  The exam questions were glued to the upper left hand corner of the exam:

Elsie’s answer to question 1 about smoking is:  “Tobacco dulls the mind and it affect the beating of the heart.” Wow!  I always heard that the dangers of smoking were not known until the 1960’s.  I remember when cigarette television commercials were banned. The tunes were so catchy we used to play “Cigarette Tag” as children during recess.  Someone was IT and IT chased all the players.  When a player was tagged the player had to sing a commercial cigarette jingle. Jingles couldn’t be repeated.  If the player couldn’t think of an original jingle than that player became IT.  Those songs are still stuck in my head!  “Winston tastes good like a (boom, boom) cigarette should,”  “I’d walk a mile for a Camel,” and Virginia Slims “You’ve come a long way baby, to get where you got to today.”  I never smoked so clearly the advertising didn’t win me over.

I’m not sure how Elsie received a 100% as she skipped answering question 2 about narcotics, which I really would have enjoyed reading.  Sadly, these problems still exist and we still teach the dangers in school today.

I have not included a chapter test on the skeleton which we also have.  Interestingly, the chapter test is in the same format as the end of year exam.  That’s important as the students were well aware of how the material would be presented and had practiced the format throughout the year.  Today, our students are taken to a computer lab to complete their end of course exams.  It’s the only time of the year that exams are given in that format which INMHO influences their score.  Next time we’ll take a look at Geography.

Elsie’s Exams Continued – 1910 Grammar Exam

Originally published on genealogyatheart.blogspot.com on 13 Sep 2015.

Today in U.S. schools, Grammar is incorporated with writing, which along with reading, is taught through Language Arts in middle school and English in high school.  In the early 1900’s, however, Reading and Grammar were separate subjects.  Think of the old song,

School days, school days, 

Dear old golden rule days. 

‘Readin’ and ‘ritin’ and ‘rithmetic, 

Taught to the tune of a hick’ry stick.” 1

My husband’s maternal grandmother, Elsie Johnson, had an 8th grade final grammar exam that I would have difficulty completing as I don’t recall most of it.  The questions appear on the upper left hand corner of page one and were glued down.  Check out Elsie’s 3 page test:

Elsie would have been considered an English Language Learner (ELL) today.  Although born in the U.S., Elsie’s parents spoke primarily Swedish in the home and in her community.  Elsie attended a church that had services in her parents’ native tongue and many of the shop keepers in her small town of Miller spoke Swedish.  No special classes were offered to Elsie; she learned English through total immersion.

In the 1990’s, an educational movement occurred as a result of a dire prediction that students no longer wrote because of the increase usage of cell phones.  Hence, many states adopted a writing assessment in key grade levels to measure writing ability.  In Florida, that test was named Florida Writes and was given in grades 4, 8 and 10. Elsie’s short narrative about how she spent her Saturday reminds me of an 8th grade prompt from about 1999.  Certainly not original but it is a topic in which students can relate.  Clearly the prediction of the end of writing was unfounded.  Young people today prefer to text and tweet over making phone calls but I will give the movement credit as today’s messages are succinct!

Now that cursive handwriting isn’t taught either, concerned groups are bemoaning the next generation will be at a loss.  I disagree as I think would many genealogists – looking at writing styles from old records it is often nearly impossible to read what was written.  I much prefer students print neatly than use illegible cursive.  I do wonder what today’s children will do when they’re supposed to place their signature on the line and then print their name under it, such as when they’re getting a mortgage or purchasing a vehicle.  Maybe the signature line will be obsolete!

I expected to see diagramming on Elsie’s exam as that was part of our 8th grade grammar test.  My mom attended Lake County, Indiana schools in the 1920’s and 1930’s and had to learn to diagram. That means the curriculum change occurred sometime between 1910 and the mid 1920’s.  I had to do it in the 1960’s and 70’s but it was gone by the late 1980’s when my children started school.  Guess that comes and goes out of style, too!

Next time we’re going to take a look at Elsie’s science final.

1Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, “School Days” Web. 30 Aug. 2015.

More of Elsie’s Exams – An Indiana 1910 End of Course Math Assessment

Originally published on genealogyatheart.blogspot.com on 10 Sep 2015.

Last time I shared my husband’s maternal grandmother, Elsie Johnson’s, 8th grade Indiana end of year reading assessment from 1910 and promised to post the math exam.  I’m fascinated with Elsie’s math test as math was always a difficult subject for me in school.  In Florida, 8th graders take Algebra I, a high school credit course, unless they have scores at a low level on the 7th grade math assessment.  Since Algebra is considered a gateway math course, meaning it is the basics of all higher level math, success in that class is important.

Take a look at Elsie’s Arithmetic exam page 1:

This would be a part our 7th grade curriculum today but only a small portion. I suppose the limited problems did show variation in using order of operations, fractions, decimals, and interpreting a story problem but I’m surprised there was no geometry, measurement, probability or graphing.  Clearly, being able to calculate a discount was considered of prime importance. I also find it interesting that Roman Numerals were used to differentiate the problems.

Elsie was administered an algebra test but with a score less than 75%, the state of Indiana would not consider it to be passing:

(See my blog of  6 Sep 2015 for the exam cover page which highlights rules to pass.)

I wonder if algebra was taught to 8th graders and if they did not pass, a more basic exam was given to them so that they could be promoted to the grade level. None of Elsie’s exams are dated, other than the school year on the front cover, and the pages are loose leaf so I have no idea in what order the exams were administered.

I love the handwritten note circled at the top after the formula to solve is given stating “That old story.”  Makes me laugh every time I see it! Clearly, Elsie was over the story problems using marbles in the scenario.

Elsie’s Exams – An Indiana 8th Grade Reading Assessment from 105 Years Ago

Originally published on genealogyatheart.blogspot.com on 6 Sep 2015.

Tests and schools go hand and hand.  Lately there has been much parent backlash regarding the number of and amount of time spent on school assessments.  The validity and reliability of the assessments are also an issue.  Last spring in my state, students were still completing their online state required end of course assessments when the legislature decided that the results couldn’t be used as they had not been normed.  Duh!  Teachers and administrators had been complaining about how unfair the tests were but no one listened until the 12th hour.

Another major educational concern is the use of a common core curriculum.  States rights advocates complain about Federal meddling.  Some educators complain that the common core doesn’t address what’s most important.

Personally, I’m over all of the testing requirements – it’s way too much and I wish politicians could witness the stress their mandates are causing children.  I’m glad I never had the pressure at 8 years old that today’s kids have.  For the past 15 years in Florida, if a child didn’t score high enough on a standardized test administered in the spring, the student can be retained even though the child had performed adequately all year in class.  For many students, the test was the first time he/she ever was given a test formatted in that particular way so the unfairness of the retention is even greater.

I truly am an advocate of a nationwide curriculum and testing program with regional elements added.  Genealogists know that families don’t stay in one place for long and transitioning for children is hard enough without having to adapt to a new curriculum.  I’m not saying every child in America should be on the same page in the same book every day.  Children learn at different rates; humans are not automated and differentiation is necessary and beneficial.  Comparing learning, however, does need to be uniform. When I first started teaching in Florida I was appalled at the standardized test questions that asked about tobogganing and ice skating.  Seriously, most of my students had no experience with northern winter weather.  How unfair!

My husband’s grandmother, Elsie Wilhelmina Johnson attended school in Lake County, Indiana in the first decade of the 20th century.  A first generation American with Swedish spoken at home, I am amazed at how well she performed academically.  We have copies of her graduation exams and they were tough!.  Take a look at the testing rules:

cover-sheet

Rule 10 states that a student needs a 75% on the exam AND classwork above 60% to pass for the year.  A 60% today equates to a grade of F so in Elsie’s day, good test takers who slacked throughout the school year could pass.  We had that problem in middle school and the way our district fixed it was that students had to gain a minimum of 2 points a semester, which at the lowest, is two D’s. Prior to the change we had darlings getting an A first grading period and then failing the next 3 grading periods.  The old rule was a student must earn 4 points a year in a subject to pass and the A equaled 4 points.  Our rule change eliminated slackers.

Elsie’s exams were for completion of the 8th grade which was the highest grade she attended.  High School was available through 12th grade but was not mandatory.  Exams, though, were state mandated with the final test question “to be determined” by the local district.  Wish we still did that today!  This would allow for local differences yet still give educators a better idea of how a child had progressed in comparison with a broader group.

When I first began to teach I was a reading teacher so Elsie’s reading tests are of particular interest to me.  My husband and I attended school in the 1970’s in the same district as Elsie and we did not read the selections on her exam until high school.  In Florida, only Don Quxiote is still read and that is at the high school level:

rdg-final

Elsie’s reading test was in two parts.  Here’s the 2nd section:

rdg

I particularly like how the reading selections crossed curriculum areas, Pilgrim’s Progress with US History, Burn’s with science and Longfellow with philosophy.   In that case, the crafty teacher could have easily taught reading through the other core classes.

It appears that Elsie had one teacher all day who taught all lessons.  WOW! This would certainly not occur today unless it was through a homeschool environment.  Teachers are prohibited from having to develop more than 3 different plans for levels or classes.

Think also of how much time was saved in not having students transition from room to room.  Five minutes passing time for 7 periods would save 30 minutes a day!

Next time we’ll look at Elsie’s math…

More Inaccessbie Genealogical Records

Originally published on genealogyatheart.blogspot.com on 30 Aug 2015.

I’ve been mentioning that several events occurred recently that really brought home the connection for me between education and genealogy, along with the impossibility of trying to find a nonexistent record.  The records that I’m looking for today did exist once but is not easy to find.

The illustrious Florida legislatures (and I mean that with all the sarcasm that I can muster) passed a bill called Florida’s Best and Brightest Teacher Scholarship last spring which is not the best or brightest idea IMHO!  Eligible teachers can earn an additional $10,000.00 bonus.  Florida teachers are way underpaid compared to most of the rest of the states so this is a big chunk of change.

To “earn” the scholarship a teacher must be considered “highly effective.”  Hubby and I get a great big check mark on that requirement.

Next eligibility condition is “…by October 1 official ACT or SAT documentation either that their score on the ACT was at or above the 80th percentile based on the rank in effect when the assessment was taken or that their scores on the SAT were at or above the 80th percentile based on the rank in effect when the assessment was taken” be provided to our school district.1

Hubby and I can’t find our Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) documentation.  We took that exam, which wasn’t a requirement to enter college back in our day, about 43 plus years ago.  I found copies of our Graduate Record Exam, National Board Certified Teacher scores, middle school achievement test results, report cards for every grade beginning in kindergarten, opened and sealed transcripts, and lots of awards but I can’t find our SAT scores.

This post isn’t about how idiotic it is to base a bonus on a test that was designed to measure success in college that was administered almost a half century ago.  Not to mention how that particular test has been shown to be historically biased against many of the test takers, particularly minorities, women and those raised in lower income households.  Nor is this post to discuss why the results of an obsolete test could demonstrate how accomplished at work an individual is today.  Nope, this post is just about the difficulty in trying to obtain the record.

I called the College Board to see if I could get another copy of our test results.  The automated message said the cost was $15.00 and for a $30.00 investment, hubby and I could receive $20,000.  Wow, what a deal!  After 45 minutes on hold I thought maybe we should just retake the exam so I looked up the next test date.  Problem is, the next administration is October 3 so it’s too late for the October 1st deadline.  I continued to wait on hold.

Finally, Russell #443 answered the call and was clearly confused when I asked him how far back records were kept.  He didn’t know.  I told him I need a copy of an exam I took in Spring 1973 as I wasn’t sure if I took the test in March or April.  He stuttered a bit, clearly taken aback that someone would need the test results from that long ago, especially since no college would accept a test that old.  I explained why I needed a copy.

Russell said the cost for an archival search was $31.00 with $11.00 for mailing and would take a minimum of 4 weeks.  That might not make the October 1st deadline, either.  Money is not refunded if they can’t find the test results.

I hate to spend money for the archiving fee because the College Board lost my son’s entire junior class’ PSAT scores a few years ago.  I still don’t understand how that happened and I was really not happy that he wasn’t able to qualify for National Merit Scholar.  School blamed College Board and College Board blamed school.  Just another example of a record that should exist that unexplainably doesn’t any longer.

I can understand missing records due to war, fire, flood or other disaster but I can’t understand why an entire school’s paper records just vanishes.  I bet they’re out they’re in cyberspace with the delayed text messages, lost  postal mail and missing socks.

The State of Florida will be able to hold on to the bonus checks as I suspect few will be able to come up with their requirements.  Laws like this just make me long for my next career as a full time genealogist!

The Nonexistent Genealogical Record

Originally published on genealogyatheart.blogspot.com on 23 Aug 2015.

This past week I had several interesting situations occur that really drove home to me the connection between education and genealogy.

The first was an email from my division superintendent that requested everyone bring a photo of their high school graduation to post as a visual reminder of our district’s goal of increasing high school graduation rates.  Problem is, I don’t have a grad photo.  If you’re one of my loyal readers you know my parents were divorced when I was young.  I attended 1st through 11th grade in the Lake County, Indiana school district where my mom and I lived with my grandparents.  In June of my rising senior year I sat for senior picture; the custom at that time was girls had to wear a crew neck grey top- no mortar boards.  I have a copy of the photo which never appeared in a school yearbook because in August, my mother, who was employed by Montgomery Wards Department Stores, which was then owned by Mobil Oil, was given a transfer to Florida.  Mom gave me the option of going with her or moving in with my dad and step-mother to complete my senior year in Indiana.  Either way, I would have had to attend a different high school so I opted to move to Florida.

My first day of my senior year at St. Petersburg High School was a disaster.  I had to retake classes I had already passed because Pinellas County Schools did not have a work-study program that I was scheduled to take in Indiana. They wouldn’t let me attend school part time, either.  I had wanted to work my senior year to save money for college so that goal was shot.  In addition, no one spoke to me the entire day, even when I asked for directions.  I came home that evening and announced that I was quitting school.  My mother insisted I return so the next morning we met with the guidance counselor.  I don’t remember his name but I remember his complete lack of concern.  He suggested I enroll in a school for drop outs where I could complete assignments at my own pace and hold a job.  My mom drove me to the new school.  As we entered there was a fist fight in the hall and we had trouble getting into the office.  No adults were around although this was adult education.  I only needed 3 classes to graduate but the school only allowed enrolling in 2 classes at a time.  I finished senior English and Business Math in two weeks.  I then enrolled in Americanism vs. Communism.  Back in the day, the state of Florida was fairly certain Fidel Castro was going to storm the shores so every Florida senior had to be prepared by taking this ridiculous course.  Even though I finished the actual course work in another 2 weeks I was forced to sit for the entire school day in the class for an additional two weeks as there was a requirement that students must be enrolled for a certain number of hours.  The teacher was kind and told me I could bring anything quiet to do so I read a book a day.  No one spoke to me at this school either.  At the time, doctors, judges and other leaders in the community were so afraid that their children would become drug addicts that they enrolled them in a now defunct program called “The Seed.”  Anyone enrolled was not permitted to speak with anyone outside of the group.  The organization decided to enroll all of their students at the adult ed program probably because there would be less opportunity to interact with other teens.  I completed my entire senior year in 6 weeks.  When I went to the school counselor to turn in my completion paperwork she informed me the district would mail my diploma to me by the end of the semester (which they did but spelled my name wrong which is another story).

I never had a graduation ceremony so I never wore a cap and gown which is why I don’t have any pictures to contribute.  Hubby offered to photo shop my senior pic to add a mortar board but I nixed that idea.  I don’t want to fake history.  I submitted a photo of my college graduation instead.

Technically, I’m a high school graduate as I had the diploma conferred to me via US Mail but since this didn’t occur with pomp and circumstance I have no photo.  Several of my co-workers did attend a graduation ceremony but it wasn’t a custom to take a picture of the diploma being conferred so they don’t have pictures, either.

I think the practice of taking a picture as the diploma is being awarded must have occurred in my area after the early 1980’s.  My bachelor’s and first master’s degree photos were taken by my mom and husband.  By the time I received my second masters in the 90’s, photographers were on stage snapping away during the ceremony.  By the 2000’s you could get the whole event on DVD.

My point is you may be looking for a record or photo that doesn’t exist because it was never recorded. Next time you’re searching for that wedding photo or birth certificate think about the possibility that it never was!  This will save you time and frustration – just look for an alternative, like the marriage license of a baptism certificate.  In my case, I have the transcripts and diploma – just no picture.