Urban model school pulls top scores, motivated students
Only a short distance from Secretary of Education Terrel H. Bell's office in the nation's capital is a high-school revitalization program that could serve as a model for America.
In recent reports, Mr. Bell and other educators have called for dramatic changes in the US schools. However, Benjamin Banneker Senior High School, Washington's new ''model academic school,'' already incorporates many of the proposed remedies. Its college-preparatory curriculum sets high standards.
Created two years ago, Banneker's program is unlike any other in the District of Columbia's distressed public school system. The difference is apparent from the moment a visitor walks into the entranceway, where tropical fish peer out of an aquarium flanked by lists of students named to the honor roll. Another list serves a different purpose: In an effort to deter tardiness, latecomers' names are published in a daily bulletin. The school's 300 students are sometimes required to be at school by 7:30 a.m.
But the differences go much deeper. The school's rigorous, four-year curriculum focuses on the traditional liberal arts - four years of English, a year of Latin, three years of a modern foreign language, and three years of both math and social studies. A similar curriculum was suggested in the recent reports.
Yet the program also includes some decidedly nontraditional requirements. For example, students must take a half-year typing course, because all major papers must be typed. And students must do several hours of community service each week. Most students fulfill this requirement by helping out in local elementary schools or working in the library or hospital of nearby Howard University.
While many students have had trouble adapting to the rigorous program and have needed tutoring early on, standardized test scores at the school have been high. Last year, Banneker students had some of the highest scores in the District of Columbia school system and were consistently above national norms.