Recent reports have shown that Washington schools are not working. And marginal changes, like reducing class size by one student, won't solve their problems. A entirely new approach might. Some suggestions:

Eliminate all athletic competitions. Schools are not training camps for the benefit of the two kids who make the Bullets basketball team. Instead make gym classes into periods of strenuous physical activity -- no more roll-out-the-ball, go-play-by-yourselves-kids scenarios.

Make uniforms in K through 12 mandatory. This idea as a means to eliminate clothing competition among children has been talked about long enough. It should be done.

Make some classes larger. That may sound odd, but the best teachers (or outside professionals or university academics), who are able to generate enthusiasm, could lecture to auditorium-size classes. Other teachers could provide individualized help and homework review with small groups of children.

The money saved on hiring one teacher -- assuming the staff would be reduced slightly by this approach -- could equip a classroom of computers where students could work with proven software in math, reading and other subjects.

Bus students to office complexes and similar locations where they can work on an individual basis with volunteers. People are eager to help but are reluctant to go into the D.C. schools.

Identify preschool kids in the city and give them a box of books of the "Hop on Pop" type, which they can keep by their beds. When kids pick up books and ask questions and demand help from adults, miracles happen. Flood the neighborhoods with books (stamped with a D.C. schools imprint to prevent them from becoming a salable commodity). And see if arrangements can be made with publishers for special low-priced editions.

The new mayor of the District says she believes in change. All these ideas could be instituted in a year. They certainly wouldn't make things worse. They might even work.

-- Stephen Sacks