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devoted to this branch of school instruction; (b) the lack of definite and reliable information concerning the factors and results of this training, and the necessity, therefore, from the pedagogical point of view, of careful inductive inquiry that the most economic disposition of the educational forces may be made to secure the largest results; (c) the independent psychological interest that may attach to experimental and statistical research in this field.
THE VARIATION OF THE NORMAL OF ACCURACY FOR AGE,
THE material upon which the present statistical study is based was collected from pupils of several Philadelphia schools and embraces the following kinds of tests:
1. Lists of spontaneously selected words - the maximum number that could be written in fifteen minutes.
2. Lists of specially selected words written in vertical columns from the dictation of the teacher.
3. Series of short sentences (containing selected words) written from the dictation of the teacher.
4. Spelling papers of the regular term examination set by the superintendent of schools.
5. Compositions and other written exercises of the regular schoolroom work.
To obtain the lists of spontaneously selected words, the pupils were given conveniently prepared slips of paper and told to begin at a given signal and write as many words as they could, using any words at all that "they might happen to think of." The words were written in vertical columns, and at the end of fifteen minutes the signal to stop writing was given and the papers were collected. The papers were written by the pupils. of the third- to the eighth-year classes, inclusive. Several such series of papers were taken, one at the Foxchase School, by the principal, Dr. Oscar Gerson, at the end of the school year, June, 1896; and at the Northwest School a series was taken at the end of the school term for three successive years, viz.: June, 1896, June, 1897, and June, 1898.
Though these papers were not secured originally for a spelling investigation, they lend themselves readily to this purpose. Moreover, owing to the conditions of the test, they afford some specially interesting data, and have, therefore, a peculiar value as compared with the usual spelling statistics. The latter are generally based upon lists of words selected by the examiner; by the conditions of the test here described, the pupils were compelled to select the words from their individual vocabularies.
The object of the experiment having been to give as much freedom as possible to the flow of ideas, the pupils were informed that the test was in no sense a test of scholarship, and were directed to write as fast as they could. An examination of the papers has shown that these directions produced the desired result, viz.: a list of words freely chosen and representative of the dominant idea groups in the subjects' minds. But when it was decided to examine the orthography of these papers, it was thought that the conditions under which they were obtained were so unfavorable to legible writing and correct spelling that the percentage of mistakes would be very high. The results have shown this very natural assumption to have been wrong. Though some of the papers show the effects of an attempt to write as rapidly as possible, legibility as well as sense (the latter measured by the general character of words selected and the greater or less use of mere nonsense words or syllables) being completely subordinated to the evident purpose of writing a great number of words, yet, on the whole, the percentage of orthographical errors, illegible and nonsense words is very small. In all the series taken the percentage of correctly spelled words ranged from 89% in the third-year classes to over 99% in those of the eighth year, while the illegible or nonsense words are but a fraction of one per cent of the total number written.
Great care was had to secure uniformity of conditions in taking the several series of fifteen-minute lists. Some preliminary experimentation had shown that extreme precautions
were necessary if the results obtained were to be regarded as at all comparable inter se. A slight difference in the wording of the directions given to the subjects of the experiment, or even in the manner of the experimenter, produces notable differences in the character of the series written. To limit as far as possible the influence of this personal variation, a simple set of explicit directions, as short as was consistent with clearness and as free as possible from the influence of suggestion, was prepared and was read to those participating in the test. That the directions met these requirements is evidenced by the fact that out of more than fifteen hundred papers, less than a dozen were rejected because of the pupils' evident misapprehension of the conditions of the test.
The several series from the Northwest School were taken each year by myself, as it seemed inadvisable to have the class teachers make the tests, even though they would have been limited to the reading of the printed directions. Dr. Gerson conducted the collection of material in the Foxchase School. Further uniformity was secured by taking the several series at about the same time of year, towards the close of the school term in June, and by using the same kind of materials for making the lists-lead pencils and specially prepared sheets of paper. Although the majority of the subjects of the first test participated in those of each successive year, yet they had been advanced each year to the next higher grade. The personnel of each class of a large school changes also more or less during the year by the withdrawal of some pupils and the entrance of others. In comparing, then, the results of the three successive tests of the Northwest School with one another, these facts are to be borne in mind. That is, variations in the average results must be attributed, in some part at least, to the variations in the composition of the classes furnishing the word lists.
The collated results of the several series are exhibited in Tables I to IX (Appendix, pp. 71-75). In Tables III, V, and VII the boys' and girls' papers have been treated separately
In the other tables the
that sex differences might be studied. results have been collated for the entire number of pupils in a class irrespective of sex. The small number of pupils in the classes of the Foxchase School and the unequal distribution of boys and girls rendered it unprofitable to analyze their results in separate tables.
A brief reference to Table II (Appendix, p. 71) will serve to indicate the significance of the arrangement of all the tables. It will be seen that in the third b grade — the lowest grade tested 35 pupils were of the average age 9.9 years; that they wrote 2966 words, or an average of 84 words per pupil; that 94% of the words were spelled correctly; that of all the words written 4 were illegible, and that 25 nonsense words occurred. In the highest grade, the eighth school year, 70 pupils of the average age of 14.7 years wrote 15,211 words, or 217 words per pupil. Of these words 98.9% were spelled correctly, 10 were illegible, and 6 were nonsense words. Further examination of all the tables shows, on the whole, a gradual increase from grade to grade both in the number of words written and in the percentage of correctness.
Comparison of the results of all the tests shows a remarkably small variation in the average spelling accuracy from year to year. The average of the school percentages of Tables I, II, IV, and VI is 95.57%, with an average variation of .62%. If the three tests of the Northwest School be averaged the variation is still less. The averages are 95.9, Table II; 94.9, Table IV; 95.0, Table VI = average of 95.26%, average variation .42%.
The relatively large number of girls represented in the total of Table I (71 girls to 24 boys) may account for the variation of that result from the results of the other tables. Comparing that result with the averages for the girls only of the other tables, we have 96.5, Table I; 96.8, Table III; 96.1, Table V; 96.3, Table VII = average 96.42%, average variation .22% — a very close accordance of results.
The average number of words written, 158 and 152 respectively of Tables I and II, closely approximate. The second and