No Teacher for the School: The Nebraska Junior Normal School Movement

Although the United States Superintendent of the Census reported in 1890 that the frontier had ceased to exist, pioneer conditions continued in teacher education in Nebraska into the twentieth century. Among the many problems facing educators, particularly those west of the ninety-eighth meridian, the task of obtaining qualified teachers for the rural schools long remained burdensome. This situation reached crisis proportions during the opening decade of the twenty-first century. At the end of the school year in 1899, 55 percent of the Nebraska children of school age were attending ungraded rural schools, 40 percent graded elementary schools, and 5 percent high school.

In his 1902 report, the Nebraska State Superintendent of Public Instruction reported that 22 percent of the teachers in the state each fall were “new inexperienced” teachers. Only “5.5 percent are graduates of a college or university, but 40 percent have a high school education or its equivalent; 29 percent have less than three years’ high school education, and 15 percent have no high school training…less than 16 percent have anything like professional training.”

A serious shortage of trained teachers led to the creation of Nebraska junior normal schools in the early twentieth century. When high schools were able to offer more normal school courses, they prepared a more adequate number of rural teachers and the junior normal schools were discontinued.

Read more about the establishment of Normal Schools in Nebraska in this Nebraska History Magazine article from 1971.

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