A company called Systems Impact Inc. has a space-age answer to the "rising tide of mediocrity" in the nation's schools: laser video discs.
If the concept takes off, "undertrained teachers would become adequate, and good teachers could become fantastic," claims Charles K. Osborne, chairman, president and founder of the small District company.
Using video discs, science teachers could show films illustrating nuclear reactions, sound wave behavior and complex laboratory experiments -- and they would have the ability to freeze an image or show the action in reverse or slow motion.
A 32-week math course could be stored on discs that could be played at any pace for classes or individuals, remedial or gifted students, and in Spanish or English.
"In April 1983, the National Commission on Excellence in Education reported that half of the newly employed teachers in mathematics and science were not qualified to teach those subjects," says Systems' prospectus, prepared by First Eastern Securities Corp. of New York.
The number of students interested in teaching science has declined, as has the quality of student achievement. This has prompted local governments to look for new ways to teach math and science, the prospectus notes.
Systems hopes to raise about $6 million from its first stock offering, now under way, and plans to use the proceeds to develop its first product line of educational discs, "Core Concepts in Science and Mathematics."
The discs are "intended to particularly aid the average and undertrained instructor by directly presenting concepts to students," according to the prospectus.
The Core Concepts series, which Systems hopes to market in the fall of 1985, will include at least nine courses designed for high schools and colleges. Each course will be stored on three to 10 video discs, for 16-week semesters or 32-week academic years. They will be accompanied by study guides or workbooks, or both, and instructor's materials.
Systems plans to produce discs, or "courseware," in physical science, earth science, general biology, non-major chemistry, non-major physics, logic and philosophy of science, general mathematics, and algebra one and two.
The video courses should cost from $3,000 to $10,000 each, depending on the number of discs in the package. Video disc players currently sell for about $700 to $2,000.
Laser disc technology is not new, but it never took off commercially, largely because video cassette players cost much less than disc players and can record television programs.
Video discs look like clear phonograph records but store information on microscopic dots that are "read" by lasers. They produce crisper images than video tapes and do not wear out with use, as tapes do. Disc players also have an advantage of enabling the user to freeze a single frame and play action in slow motion, reverse or fast forward.
Osborne calls video discs a "beautiful industry -- stillborn, but compelling." He said the technology still has potential, but has suffered because no one has produced enough programmed discs "to drive the industry."
"It was like building razors, but no blades," he said.
Systems hopes to revive video discs by creating a "critical mass" of courseware. "A large number of available courses means that educational institutions will be able to justify the purchase and use of videodisc hardware," Osborne said in a recent article in The Videodisc Monitor.
He hopes video discs will follow the invasion of microcomputers into the classroom. About 20 percent of the nation's school districts now have at least one video disc player, up from 2 percent in 1982, he said.
One potential risk for investors, however, is "technological obsolescence," according to the prospectus. "There can be no assurance that the company will achieve or maintain a competitive position or that other technical developments will not cause the company's products to become uneconomical or obsolete," the prospectus says.
Osborne, a management and marketing specialist, formed Systems in July 1983. The company's only income to date is $872,700 from a research and development contract; in June, it carried $177,283 as a liability arising from the contract.
Systems is offering 3 million shares of common stock and 3 million stock purchase warrants. Each $2 unit sold includes one share and one warrant. The company's current shareholders will control about 57 percent of the outstanding common stock if all the publicly offered units are sold.