Editor: I agree with Hardev S. Palta (Dec. 1 letter) that Maryland needs a residential state high school of mathematics and science in order to help youths especially talented in those areas get the special kind of education they need in order to use their academic potentialities most effectively.
Shortly after beginning his first term, Gov. William Donald Schaefer tried to hurry such a school of his own design into being. Because, however, the new governor did not pave the way toward consensus among various interested parties such as state legislators and influential educators, the legislature rather quickly killed the proposal. I'd like to see the idea tried again, but along somewhat different lines.
On his first attempt, Governor Schaefer was following the model of the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics. As I have learned over the years since first helping North Carolina plan its school in the late 1970s, any free-standing state residential high school, not part of a public school system or well articulated with a college or university, is vulnerable to a number of problems.
It is costly, both for initial capital cost and for year-by-year student expenses. State legislators tend to impose on it racial, ethnic, gender, county and other ''goals'' that readily become essentially quotas. This usually leads to a student body quite heterogeneous with respect to scholastic aptitude. Providing adequately for the wide range of talent increases the costs.
There is, I believe, a much better model -- far less expensive and much less vulnerable politically. It is exemplified, uniquely in this nation thus far, by the Texas Academy of Mathematics and Science (TAMS) at the University of North Texas, near Dallas/Ft. Worth. Able students enter TAMS after the 10th grade, spend two years taking only college courses, and emerge as full-fledged college juniors. (Two from its first graduating class are juniors at Johns Hopkins now, a young man majoring in bio-psychology and a young woman in mechanical engineering.)
Academically they start as college freshmen pursuing a rigorous, mostly required academic program. For social and emotional purposes they reside together on the university campus and have their own high school atmosphere, complete with senior prom and formal graduation from high school. They are age-in-grade high schools juniors (190 this academic year) and senior in virtually all respects except the level of the courses they take.
This model could be implemented well on the University of Maryland Baltimore County campus. As few as perhaps 25 students could start the academy. They would enter UMBC in the usual way, paying all fees not covered by the school's regular financial aid program. Non-Marylanders could be included; they would pay the usual charges for our-of-staters. This program should not require any special financial appropriation by the legislature.
I could even envision its being the National Academy of Mathematics and Science. How greatly that would probably boost the educational image of Maryland across the United States! Think BIG, Governor Schaefer!
Julian C. Stanley.
The writer is director of the Study of Mathematically Precocious Youth at Johns Hopkins University.