There is a compelling need to broaden the pool of Baltimore college-bound school students involved in math and the sciences. A small step came this week in the form of a $657,957 "Next Century Schools" grant to Dunbar High School from RJR Nabisco. The grant, one of 15 awarded for experimental school reform plans, will bring closer to reality Dunbar's proposal to increase the number of minority students studying math, science and technology in college. The money will be used to pay for additional computers and special activities for middle-school students headed to Dunbar.
A six-week summer program will provide the spadework for incoming ninth-graders -- about 200 in all -- to take advanced math and science in high school. Right now, only 35 ninth-graders attend this program as part of a partnership with the Johns Hopkins University. High school students will also work with children from Dunbar's 10 feeder middle schools in special weekend sessions. High- and middle-school teachers will receive special training and there will be new computer labs at middle schools and at Dunbar. Special agreements with parents will require them to become involved in their children's education.
This is the kind of concerted effort urgently needed to uplift the aspirations and expectations of our students. Many come from families hard-pressed to provide necessities, let alone the kind of instructional materials it takes to spark and nurture an interest in math and science. That Dunbar was chosen from 1,600 applicants nationwide and 49 in Maryland is an accomplishment in itself. It is a source of inspiration to students, teachers and parents -- a shining example of business giving more than lip service to the schools.