The D.C. public school system this week still needed 75 volunteers for the much-publicized Operation Rescue, a tutoring program to help elementary school students who failed to be promoted last semester under the District's new standards.

Sterling Tucker, the former City Council president who is heading the volunteer drive, said the program had reached its goal of recruiting 1,000 volunteers. But the Operation Rescue staff has tried to place the volunteers in the schools they requested, and as a result, the 40 target schools that had the highest numbers of failing students still need 75 volunteers.

The volunteers, who include Alma Rangel, wife of New York City Congressman Charles B. Rangel; Ann Mathias, wife of Maryland Sen. Charles McC. Mathias; reporters; lawyers; physicians; artists; cab drivers, and dozens of retired teachers, will attend an orientation session Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon at Dunbar High School, 1301 New Jersey Ave. NW.

Tutoring sessions will begin in the schools next week and will run until May.

The tutors will work three hours a week with students in the first, second and third grades, the only grades where the new, stiffer promotions standards are in effect. The standards will apply to grades one through six next year. The new standards require students to master specific skills in reading and math before being promoted each semester. Last month, 6,000 of the District's 21,600 first, second and third graders failed to master the required skills in both reading and math. An additional 4,000 did not master the skills in one of those subjects.

About 85 organizations, from PTAs and church groups to the Association of University Women and the D.C. Chapter of the Retired Teachers Association, offered their help to the tutoring project, Tucker said.