D.C. Schools Superintendent Vincent E. Reed has revived a proposal for a "model academic high school" for college-bound students, but this time Howard University is offering its professors and resources to the program.
The school board rejected a similar proposal on a 7-4 vote earlier this year, in one of its most bitter and hotly contested votes, contending the plan was elitist and catered to middle class whites. Some board members argued such a model school would drain the city's better high schools of their best students and teachers.
The new proposal attempts to diffuse some of the old arguments by stressing the participation of Howard, a black institution. Reed has also changed the proposed site of the new school from Hine Junior High on Capitol Hill to Banneker Junior High on Georgia Avenue, across from Howard.
School sources said some board members believed locating the school in a changing neighborhood on Capitol Hill would make it a bastion for middle class whites.
Under the new plan, students would use Howard's laboratory facilities for language and science courses, and also be able to take college level courses for credit at the university. Howard professors will also be teaching the D.C. students in some instances, Reed said.
One of the requirements of the model school is that students participate in some community work program. Reed said that students would be able to fulfill this requirement by working at Howard's Center for the Study of Sickle Cell disease or in one of the other community services the university offers.
The academic high school, whose curriculum would include more college prepatory courses than other schools and, theoretically challenge those not challenged by current study programs, is one of the major efforts proposed to improve the image of the school system and diversify its direction.
The D.C. public schools system, whose student scores on standardized national tests are improving but still below national norms, is losing many of its middle class black and white students to private schools.
In addition, many complain that there are inadequate programs for gifted or college-bound students.
The last time the model school was proposed, its opponents argued that the school system, already facing severe budget cutbacks and the loss of hundreds of teachers, would never be able to adequately staff and equip such a school.
Some board members, like Vice President Barbara Lett Simmons and at-large member Eugene Kinlow, argued it would make more sense to upgrade the academic programs already existing in city high schools.
Reed, anxious to stem the flow of middle class students in the city to private schools, said yesterday that he decided to ask Howard to contribute facilities and staff so that the model high school would not have to be such a financial burden to the school system.
Two board members who opposed the high school in the past, Kinlow and Ward 7 representative Nathaniel Bush, said yesterday they may reconsider their votes.
Both, however, still expressed some reservations about the proposal. Bush said he is opposed to the superintendent's plan to admit only students in the top 15th percentile of their class to the school. Kinlow said that as in the past, he was concerned about the legality of restricting admissions to the model school to only students currently in the system, instead of opening up admissions to youngsters who might want to transfer from private schools.
A public hearing will be held Dec. 16 to consider the proposal.