Groveton High School in Fairfax County was inadvertently ommitted from a list of schools with National Merit Scholar semi-finalists published in yesterday's Washington Post: Groveton had two semi-finalists. In Sunday's Post, it was incorrectly reported that St. Albans School, with 16 National Merit Scholar semi-finalists in a senior class of 62, had the highest percentage in the country. In fact, St. Anselm's Abbey School in Northeast Washington had a higher percentage with six in a senior class of 19.
Would Sigmund Freud, Stanley Baldwin, William Morris, V. I. Lenin, or Friedrich Nietzsche most probably have made this statement:
"I am opposed to parliamentary government and the power of the press because they are means whereby chattel become masters."?
If your answer is Nietzsche, you gave a correct response to a type of question you might expect to find on an Advanced Placement Examination, a test taken every spring by high school seniors seeking credit or advanced standing in college.
Performance on such tests is considered by many educators to be one indicator of the quality of a school's academic program.
Of the thousands of Advanced Placement exams in a variety of subjects given in the Washington area last spring, more were taken by students at Alexandria's public T.C. Williams High School than at any other school, public or private.
Moreover, of the 208 students taking the tests given at T.C. Williams, 77 percent received the equivalent of a passing grade, the highest number of any school in the area.
The significance of that fact, says the school's science department chairman, William Dunkum, is that it demonstrates clearly that "those myths about the public schools - that they deal with watered-down curricula and that if you have certain groups of people they will drag everyone down - are just not true."
Indeed few schools in the area, public or private, can match the richness and diversity of the curriculum at T. C. Williams, which enrolls 1,750 students, 35 percent of them black, in grades 11 and 12.
There students are confronted with a range of courses extending from first- and second-year Russian to college-level courses in English and math to a scientific smorgasbord that runs the gamut from oceanography to a second-year college level course in chemistry.
So highly regarded is the curriculum content there that 28 students bucked an areawide trend this year and withdrew from private schools to attend T.C. Williams.
Julie Drewry, for example, left St. Mary's Academy in Alexandria after the tenth grade to spend the last two years of high school at T.C. Williams.
"I felt I was getting a good education at St. Mary's but the course offerings were very limited and everyone took the same thing," she said.
"Here there is just so much more. Next year I'd like to take advanced placement biology and advanced placement chemistry. They just don't have that at St. Mary's."
Despite the school's size, which enables it to offer such a varies curriculum, faculty members at T.C. Williams do what they can to make available the small classes that are such a drawing card for private schools.
Thus, it is able to offer a first-year Russian class with only five students enrolled. One of them, Raphel Jeu, finds the arrangement "like having a personal tutor."
Science chairman Dunkum and his staff come in on their own time every Sunday afternoon to open the school's science labs and to be available for any student seeking help.
Doug McDonald, a senior, whose programs include calculus and an advanced course in physics, has been spending two or three Sunday afternoons a month in the Williams science labs this fall.
"It's a good idea to have the school open. If you have problems, you can ask the teachers for help," said McDonald, an A student who's aiming for Princeton next year.
Shirley G. Powers, who teaches two advanced placement courses in English, gives students her telephone number and encourages them to call her at night or on weekends if they need help.
Powers demands several papers a month from her students - she has 14 in one class, 15 in another - and she tries to confer individually with each student about each paper.
"They write, and they rewrite and they rewrite," said Powers, "but from this class they go to schools like Smith, Yale, MIT, Cal Tech, Oberlin . . ."
The advanced placement program at T.C. Williams is one of the more ambitious in the area, but virtually all schools, public and private have programs to tap the academic potential of the brighter students.
At Maryland's Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School, for example, Lorenzo Sadun, a senior at the age of 15, is in his third year of calculus. For entertainment, Sadun, a National Merit Scholar semi-finalist, Sadun, and his friends get together and write programs for the school's computer.
In Northern Virginia, students at Langley High School have the option of selecting an independent studies program in which they plan their own course of study with a member of the faculty.
Graduates of this program have regularly won admission to the more selective colleges. One is Jim Rehnquist, the son of Supreme Court Justice William H. Rehnquist, who went from Langley to Amherst.
While most schools in the area do have advanced placement programs, however, there were only eight where more than 100 advanced placement tests were taken.
A large number of tests indicates, said Carl Haag, an official of the Educational Testing Service which administers the tests, that a school has had "a very good, strong, challenging academic year."
Among the other schools that had high numbers of advanced placement tests were Bethesda's Walt Whitman High with 158 and Sidwell Friends in Washington with 140.
In 90 percent of Whitman's tests and in 89 percent of Sidwell's, students received the equivalent of a passing grade, 3 on a scale of 1 to 5.
Joel Garcia, a T.C. Williams senior who just turned 17, was one who took the grueling, three-hour examinations in an effort to pick up early college credit.
He said he thought it was worth it because the exams involved "just some extra sweating for a couple of days . . . Students are willing to gamble $27 so they can save a few hundred dollars on college courses."
As a junior last May, Garcia took the advanced placement exams in history and biology and passed them both with a 4 and 5 respectively.
Another student, Choong Kim, a T.C. Williams senior who wants to be a doctor, is planning to take the physics and chemistry exams to speed up his admission to medical school.
Kim took the test last spring but did poorly so he's going to take them over again next spring even though the cost will jump to $32.
"I looked at how long it takes to become a medical doctor and I decided that eight years is just too long," said Kim, 18.
An example of the kind of question Kim faced on the chemistry exams:
"A three-liter sample of helium at 50 centimeters pressure and a one-liter sample of hydrogen at 40 centimeters pressure are mixed in a two-liter tank. If all measurements are made to the same temperature, what is the total pressure in the two-liter tank?"
Several multiple choice answers are listed. The correct answer is 95 centimeters.
Next: The promise of private school