IN THE PAST, Howard High School has received its share of negative attention. But nearly every time someone tries to give it a bum rap, the Ellicott City school receives some award to show otherwise. Howard High's most recent accolade comes from Redbook magazine, which in its April edition named the school one of America's best in the category of "significant improvement." In May, school representatives will visit the White House to meet President Clinton.
Howard may not appear on the surface to be a natural model for such recognition. Its classrooms are jammed with 500 more students than the school was designed to accommodate; a dozen portable classrooms handle the spillover. Its feeder middle schools often score low on Maryland performance tests. Last January, allegations of gang activity resulted in the arrest of five students accused of robbing fellow students of money, jackets and whatever else fixed their gaze. And last year, a physical education teacher was found in school with stab wounds, sending police on a wild goose chase for two non-existent assailants. The teacher later resigned after admitting the wounds were self-inflicted, but the bad image given the school over the incident was slow to heal.