Philip Uri Treisman wishes you wouldn't think of his Emerging Scholars Program as some sort of miracle. It's true he's having astounding success at attracting African American, Hispanic and low-income students to his calculus classes at the University of Texas -- true also that the students are achieving head-turning success in these courses that are often described as the gateway to careers in science. But the "miracle" label leads people to think there's something about what he's doing that can't be replicated -- the way we used to think about Jaime Escalante's advanced-placement calculus classes at Garfield High in Los Angeles. Treisman, who's been interested in the underperformance of certain minority students for 20 years or more, says it's at once simpler and more complicated than that. More complicated because unequal K-12 preparation often leaves poorer and minority students inadequately equipped for the rigors of advanced math. Many high schools have no advanced placement courses. Others can't afford the special support students may need. And simpler because the one element Treisman believes is critical is not family income or discrimination or intellectual shortcomings or any of the things people usually talk about when explaining minority underachievement. It is study habits. Asian students, who tend to do well in math, often study in groups. Black students study alone. Speaking generally, Treisman said, Asian students form what amount to academic social groups, tackling difficult problems together, checking one another's progress and class standing. Black students, perhaps because they've been taught the importance of not letting their social lives interfere with their academics, keep to themselves, often having no idea how even their closest friends are doing in class. The Emerging Scholars Program carefully inculcates the academic fraternity idea while working to lower racial and ethnic barriers between the scholars. Standards are kept high, with no concession to differential high school preparation except extra work. And that extra work is cast in terms of problem solving, not remediation. The approach is working. Most of the 800 students in the program from 1988 to 1997 -- three-fifths of them black or Hispanic -- scored nearly a whole letter grade higher than their counterparts not in the program. What had been maybe a half-dozen minority math majors when Treisman arrived in Austin 10 years ago soon topped 150. (He's had 65 of Escalante's former students, 12 of whom now have doctorates in math.) "Before we started this program, if you visited my math department it would have looked like there was a cataclysmic earthquake and that Taiwan and Connecticut had merged," Treisman told a luncheon gathering at the Heritage Foundation here last week. "I mean you could not tell that you were in the state of Texas. Now we've dramatically changed that profile, and we've done it while maintaining our rigorous standards. My students will tell you I'm the toughest grader on campus." Is the Treisman approach replicable, or does it depend on the personal involvement of this one committed genius? He's glad you asked. Some version of the program is in place on 150 university campuses. "They have to make up their own name and create their own specifics, because we understand that Kentucky is not the same as Vermont, and it's not the same as Berkeley and it's not the same as Texas. What they all have in common, though is clarity about goals and a lot of freedom in how they meet them and how they work out the support structures." It may or may not have had anything to do with the fact that he was speaking at a conservative think tank, but Treisman ("If you'd voted Republican in my parents' home, you'd have had to go into the witness protection program") offered this gentle caution: "In too many cases, people fight their political and cultural wars on children's playgrounds. As in all wars, the first casualty is truth, the second casualty is children. We have to stop fighting cultural wars that endanger the lives of children. We have to look at the actual, and we have to build systems and we have to build accountability systems and structural systems that support opportunity. "Preferences are finished. If we don't make good on building opportunity structures, we threaten the future of this country."