The Committee of Ten was convened in 1892 by the National Education Association. The purpose of the committee was to develop recommendations for a standardized high school curriculum. Leading educators of the time were worried that too great a degree of variance existed in basic high school curricula across the country, resulting in a lack of consensus on what an educated person should know and generating confusion in college entrance requirements. Charles W. Eliot, president of Harvard University, was appointed chair of the task force. All but one member, William Harris, then U.S. Commissioner of Education, were at the time college/university presidents or secondary school principals or headmasters.
Nine subcommittees were formed, each to study a specific academic area: Latin, Greek, English, other modern languages, mathematics, physical sciences (physics, astronomy, chemistry), natural sciences (biology, botany, zoology, physiology), civics (history, civil government and political economy), and geography (physical geography, geology, meteorology). Each of the subcommittees was comprised of ten members, mostly college professors or presidents and secondary school principals and headmasters. Per the guidelines of the Committee of Ten, each of the subcommittees convened three-day conferences in separate cities (except for Latin and Greek, both of which met in Ann Arbor, Michigan) from December 28–30, 1892. The conferences were designed so that each subcommittee would respond to a standard set of eleven questions regarding how a course of study should be designed and implemented at the secondary school level. Each subcommittee was to produce a conference report for the committee based on the assigned questions.
The conference reports were submitted to the committee in October 1893. Chairman Eliot prepared a draft report, and in November 1893 the Committee of Ten met at Columbia University in New York City to prepare the final draft, which included a minority report authored by James Baker, president of the University of Colorado. The final report was the subject of much discussion from the moment it was released. The initial circulation of 30,000 copies, published by the U.S. Bureau of Education, was distributed free of charge. An additional 10,000 copies were published and sold out within six years.
The final report included multiple sample courses of study. Committee recommendations included the amount of time spent per day, week, and year on each subject, as well as the proportion of time that each subject should occupy in the high school curriculum. These recommendations influenced later work by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching that resulted in the standard unit of credit for high school work. Though ostensibly a project designed to recommend standardization in the high school curriculum, the final report included recommendations for the first eight years of schooling in preparation for high school. The report was noted for the recommendation that all students in a high school, whether college bound or not, should take the same course of study.
- Johanek, M. (2001). A faithful mirror: Reflections on the college board and education in America. New York: The College Board.
- National Education Association. (1894). Report of the Committee of Ten on secondary school studies, with the reports of the conferences arranged by committee. New York: Author.
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