EVENTUALLY, we assume, the city's school board will get around to reconsidering for the nth time Superintendent Reed's proposal to create a citywide model academic high school.During the several years that the board has wasted debating and disapproving this valuable plan, other school jurisdictions have been busy demonstrating that there are many innovative ways to provide a first-class education consistent with the budgets and the egalitarian purposes of the public school system.
For example, in 1977, just shortly before Vincent Reed first made his proposal, the North Carolina state legislature appropriated money for planning and the first year of operation of a new kind of school. This fall the North Carolina State School of Science and Mathematics became a reality. Though it offers the full academic curriculum, the new school emphasizes rigorous courses in science and math, with many requirements at the college level. Students who are ready can take courses at any of three nearby universities.
The two-year residential school is open to any North Carolina high school student. Nominations for the first class were solicited from civic, church and community organizations, as well as from academic sources. Though a victory of factors were considered in choosing among the 900 applicants, all of those chosen had to show evidence of real promise in mathematics. Ultimately, 150 students were selected -- about half of each sex and including 15 percent minority students. All of the students' costs are covered by the state, but each is required to do eight hours of work a week -- five hours in general housekeeping work, and three hours in community service.
The District school system doesn't need a residential school nor, at this point, a special school for science and math. But it does desperately need many of the other things that the North Carolina experiment provides: a place within the public school system where students with promise and motivation can be challenged, the chance to win back the students and parents who have given up on the public schools and, have above all in this city, the opportunity for minority students to have a crack at an education as good as can be found at the most expensive private school. Perhaps by the time the North Carolina State School for Science and Mathematics graduates its first alumni, the District school board will have recognized these simple truths.