LITTLE DID WE know last spring how exuberantly and effectively the people of Greater Washington would respond to a call for volunteer tutors in the D.C. public schools--but they did in droves, and for the most part found it as rewarding for themselves as for their young charges. And as you may have guessed, this is an introduction to the second call--right now--for anybody who can help make good things happen to struggling schoolchildren in this city. Even those whose only degrees in school were Fahrenheit are eligible, because we're talking about some 3,200 kids in 40 elementary schools who just need that help, hope and encouragement that a financially strapped system cannot now provide.

That's the simple thrust of Operation Rescue, which is recruiting and fielding volunteers to work side by side with the children, their teachers and their parents on grade-school reading and mathematics. Tutors will be asked to help for approximately four hours a week, preferably during the school day. Times and locations can be arranged, but the project needs names first--and this is not one of those in-the-near-future propositions: the call is immediate. The program needs the names of volunteers in time for an orientation session scheduled for next Saturday, Oct. 17, at Dunbar High School. Tutors will begin working in the schools on the following Monday, Oct. 19.

The phone line is open today for anybody caring enough to seek more information or to join the corps: 724-4482. Just because a child may not have mastered the skills required at a certain level does not make that youngster a "failure"--but the commitment of an adult can certainly lift up that child for a crack at success.