When the teacher at the one-room schoolhouse in Elk Valley must depart unexpectedly, the head of the school board decides to end the academic year right then, a month and a half before the summer break. 14-year-old Ida Bidson protests, because without exit exams, she cannot proceed to high school in the fall. “I’m not so sure a girl needs a high school education,” Mr. Jordan retorts, undeterred. Then Ida’s friend Tom comes up with a plan: “You’re such a gravy know-it-all,” he tells her. “You could take over the school when Miss Fletcher leaves.”
And so she does, swearing the students to secrecy. It’s no easy task “Miss Bidson” has to learn self-confidence, and she must keep up with her farm chores and with her own studies. To compound the challenge, the county examiner discovers the secret and agrees to keep the school open only if all the students take a final exam.