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   THE LAB SCHOOL STORY

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CHANGES AND CHALLENGES: 1900-1917



As the twentieth century dawned all seemed to be going well for ISNS and its Training School. The enrollments of both were expanding and new facilities, faculty, courses, and programs were being added. During the 1890s the issue of establishing additional state normal schools had regularly come before the legislature, most notably in 1894 and 1900 when there were intense debates over whether to launch new schools or to expand the facility in Cedar Falls. Ultimately, legislators adopted the latter course and in 1894 appropriated $35,000 to construct an office and classroom building that would become known as the Administration Building and in 1900 provided $100,000 to build an auditorium and instructional building which is today Lang Hall. Although the question of establishing other normal schools in the state remained viable for a number of years, in 1902 the legislature committed itself to the expansion of ISNS by including it in a half mill tax on real property in Iowa enacted for the support of higher education. Two-tenths of a mill was designated for the State University of Iowa, two-tenths for the Iowa College of Agricultural and Mechanic Arts, and one-tenth for ISNS, the receipts from which were designated for capital improvements at the school. 


However, despite signs of progress, the future of the Normal School was not yet secure. In 1904 and 1912 significant challenges arose, both reflecting the potential down-side of the same progressive impulse that afforded opportunities for growth and innovation. A fundamental tenet of much of progressive reform was the need for efficiency and economy. In Iowa as elsewhere this characteristic of the era coupled with the special interests of the state’s three institutions of higher education posed potential problems for ISNS’s role in teacher preparation. Then, as now, efficiency was often equated with the elimination of duplicate programs among The University of Iowa, Iowa College of Agricultural and Mechanic Arts, and Iowa State Normal School. As specialization and credentialling became increasingly important in educational circles ISNS in 1904 began offering a Bachelor of Arts in Education. However, a legislative committee challenged this action on the grounds that it was an unwarranted duplication of offerings at The University of Iowa. Fortunately for the future of the Normal School, it survived this potentially damaging challenge. The awarding of the new degree signaled the school’s evolution toward collegiate status, a pattern of development that would become common among normal schools in the second and third decades of the century. ISNS achieved that goal in 1909 when the legislature approved its reorganization as Iowa State Teachers College. 


Despite its new status the future of the college as a four-year institution remained somewhat uncertain and again, as in 1904, the threat flowed, at least in part, from concerns about alleged inefficiencies in Iowa’s system of higher education. In 1909 the formerly largely independent boards of directors of each school were consolidated into a single Iowa State Board of Education. Believing a part of its charge was to initiate organizational changes in the interest of efficiency and economy, the Board in the fall of 1912 with minimal consultation with interested parties in Iowa proceeded to move forward with a plan to discontinue engineering studies at Iowa City and concentrate them at Ames; to eliminate domestic science courses at Ames and open them at Iowa City; and discontinue education courses beyond the sophomore year at Cedar Falls and develop them further at Iowa City. The proposed changes were justified by the Board in a report based on information gleaned primarily from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, but with minimal input from normal school educators, an omission that reflected the prevalent bias against teacher training institutions within established higher education circles.

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