On The Record

May 01, 2000 1 min read

Retro Rating

In May, after 58 years of chronicling the American experience, Life magazine will publish its last monthly issue. Famous for its intimate photographs of people at school, work, play, and war, the magazine also made attempts to engage its readers in civic life. In its October 1950 issue, for example, Life published a test to help parents gauge the quality of their children’s schools. “Some schools are good, and some schools are bad, and it is next to impossible for most citizens to tell which are which,” the editors intoned. “They can look at the teachers and buildings and form impressions. But unless the average parent has wide academic experience, there is no sure-fire way for him to judge for himself the job a school is doing or to measure it against any other school.” Life claimed that by responding “yes” or “no” to its 63 test statements-with “yes” answers denoting positive

attributes-parents could measure just how good their kids’ schools were. Below are some of the statements.


At least 50 percent of the classroom teachers have master’s degrees.

Teachers in the secondary school have at least one free

period to every four teaching periods.

Teachers in the elementary school have at least 40 minutes of rest period during the day.

The same wage scale exists for both elementary and secondary school teachers.

The minimum starting salary for teachers is at least $2,700 [$19,158 in today’s dollars] a year.

The possible top salary for classroom teachers is at least $4,000 [$28,382 in today’s dollars] a year.

Instructors in high school vocational courses receive pay per week at least equal to the weekly wage of the trade they teach.

The teachers and school staff are allowed sick leave with pay for at least 10 days annually.

The school board contributes financial aid for inservice training of teachers.

Laymen are used systematically to supplement classroom instruction both through consultation and actual


There are at least 30 square feet of floor area per classroom per pupil in average daily attendance.

At least 80 percent of the classrooms have moveable


There are flush toilets.

There is a high school football field.

Less than 10 percent of the students in either the 8th, 9th, 10th, or 11th grades dropped out last year.