SOME SUPPORT is in order for the city school administration's plan to recruit 1,000 volunteer "tutors" from private business and other fields to work side by side with teachers in the classrooms. Even before you could say "recess," there were the predictable initial doublts expressed by those who found the proposal (a) too ambitious; (b) likely to bomb out in the classroom; (c) nothing more than a mild measure to make up for serious teacher cuts; or (d) all of the above.
But why not try it? To serve as the unsalaried director of the project, dubbed "Operation Rescue," Acting Superintendent James T. Guines as called on Sterling Tucker, former District Council chairman and one-time director of a similar volunteer project coordinated by the Washington Urban League for junior high schools. Again, there are critics mumbling that Mr. Tucker is just doing this as a way to attract attention to himself as a future candidate for mayor. But more power to him if Mr. Tucker succeeds in marshaling 1,000 committed people in this community to spend four hours a week giving help to 10,000 youngsters on math and reading skills.
The focus is to be on those children in the first, second and third grades who were not good enough at reading and math to be promoted at the half-year point this month. Under the new "pupil progress plain," these students are not simply pushed into the next level, but are to be given special help so they may measure up and move on as quickly as possible.With a shortage of teachers, aides and money for additional teaching, the unpaid volunteers will work in cooperation with teachers and principals to see that the 10,646 youngsters who were not ready for promotion this first time are not wrongly cast off as scholastic "failures."
The whole important point of the pupil progress plan is to stop the cruel practice of moving kids up and out of the school system, ready or not. By enlisting volunteers -- and already there are businesses that have expressed a willingness to participate -- the school system not only will aid the youngest children who need help but will forge new, constructive ties between adults in the community and children in the city's classrooms. There are still more ways in which parents and other interested people could do more for Washington's public school students. Classroom visits by parents, or on site tours of parents at work -- in stores, in the government, in the trades and so on -- are instructural.
It is important that "Operation Rescue" or any other volunteer-aide plan not be regarded as a permanent substitute for full-time teachers and all the books and equipment they should have to do their jobs well. But as a supplement, the new tutor plan deserves all the support that can be generated by a community concerned about its young.