The Carter administration's top education officials marked American Education Week yesterday by crossing the Anacostia River to visit three of Washington's large new open-space schools.
Mary Berry, the assistant secretary for education in the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, told an assembly at the Winston School, 31st and Erie Streets SE, that the administration was particularly committed to improving the quality of urban schools so their students could avoid becoming "part of the statistics of unemployed youth." She toured the scool, which is a combination elementary and junior high, joining a group of seventh graders who were trying to learn the difference between "who" and "whom," and watching intently as younger children used tape recorders with large earphones to learn how to read.
Then she drove to another large new Anacostia school, Terrell Elementary, where she visited a six-room suite that has been furnished as an apartment and is decorated with "recipes" telling how parents can use things found around the house to teach their children.
Dorothy Rich, the director of the Home and School Institute which set up the model apartment, told Berry it was the first of its kind in the country.
Rich said programs to teach parents to teach their children can raise achievement more effectively and at less cost then many regular school programs, but she acknowledged that these at-home programs have not yet been extensively evaluated.
"I like it even without the evaluation," Berry declared. "It has a good feeling." She said she would try to get federal money to pay for evaluations.
Elizabeth Abramowitz, assistant director fo the White House Domestic Policy Council, joined Berry for part of her tour.
Meanwhile, Ernest L. Boyer, the U.S. commissioner of education, visited another Anacostia school, Friendship Elementary and Junior High, at South Capitol Street and Livingston Road SE. The school is the largest ever built in Washington, with a rated capacity of 2,742.
Friendship uses a computer-assisted education program, marketed by Westinghouse, in which children follow step-by-step lessons that are marked each night by a computer scanner.
Every morning, principal Larry Paige said, the computer provides a daily lesson plan for each student.
Paige said the program will cost $36,000 to operate this year plus $40,000 for textbooks.
"I would say open space is working here," Paige said, "which is not what most people believe can happen in the inner-city."
But Paige added that his school has 1,753 students, just 64 per cent of its rated capacity.
"If you actually put kids in every area it would just be impossible," he said in an interview. "The scheduling would be a monster, and the noise factor would be unbearable. We wouldn't be running an educational program. We would be running a mad house. But right now we're getting along well."
Like Friendship, the two schools Berry visited - Winston and Terrell - have large carpeted learning centers that are built to hold several hundreds pupils each, rather than individual classrooms with walls.
The Winston school's enrollment is only 65 per cent full. Principals of both schools said the extra space made their buildings work much better than they would if they were full.
At Terrell, situated at Wheeler Road and Savannah Street SE, the model apartment with the home learning recipes, occupies' a "multiservice center" that had previously been empty. The apartment is now open to the public Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Rich said visitors can take home copies of the recipe, which range from using toilet paper to teach children how to add and subtract totoilet paper to teach children how to add and subtract tohow to skim for facts.