Baltimore's Paul Laurence Dunbar High School has won a $657,957 grant from RJR Nabisco -- making the citywide school one of only 15 in the country and the only one in the region to win one of the three-year grants, according to the company.
The so-called "Next Century Schools" grants are intended to spur radical change in education by funding experimental reform plans. They were first awarded a year ago. Dunbar, chosen from 1,600 applicants nationwide -- including 49 in Maryland -- is the first school in the state to win one of the grants, which can be for a maximum of $750,000.
"I walked around here hollering out, hey, hey, hey," said Elzee Gladden, the school's principal, who learned of the award yesterday. "I walked around saying, 'Yes, the eyes of the nation are upon us.' "
The other winners were from Massachusetts, Alabama, Minnesota, California, Georgia, Utah, Texas, Maine, Arizona,Florida and North Carolina. The money is awarded based on proposals from elementary, middle and high schools.
Dunbar's proposal is intended to increase the number of minority students attending college in the fields of math, science and technology. Using the grant, the school will make changes ranging from adding more computers to special activities for middle school students headed for Dunbar.
The school's plan calls for a six-week summer program for all incoming ninth-graders -- some 200 in all -- to prepare them to take advanced math and science in high school. Currently only about 35 ninth-graders attend such a program as part of the school's partnership with the Johns Hopkins University, Dr. Gladden said.
Dunbar will also have special weekend sessions when high school students will work with children from the 10 middle schools that send students to Dunbar.
Other elements of the plan include special training for teachers both at the high school and its neighboring middle schools; three computer labs at the middle schools; a new computer lab at Dunbar; and special agreements with parents, who will pledge to become involved in their childrens' schooling, Dr. Gladden said.
The Johns Hopkins University will design an evaluation program to assess the plan's impact on students, he said.