With a Math and Science Focus
Q. Is it a good idea,
or too specialized, to create a high school with a strong focus on math and
science, that minimizes other subjects?
There are payoffs and dangers of such a plan.
The payoffs include creating more students capable of surviving and excelling
in college math and science classrooms and high-skilled jobs in science and
engineering. By all accounts, our country sorely needs more people like that.
But the dangers might include creating a set of future
citizens who are overdeveloped in narrow academic areas and underdeveloped in other
important areas. If their focus is merely on math and science, they may lack
the worldview and perspective that come only through studying history, for
example. Or they may lack the important stress relief skills that come from
developing their music and art talent while in high school. Overall, these
usually left-brained, high-achieving type students might grow up into biased
adults who don't respect and appreciate other types of giftedness besides their
own, because they were "hothoused" in school and were only around other
students who are just like them.
The solution in a growing number of communities is
to create "a school within a school" that functions as a sort of magnet school
for math and science but is still part of the mainstream of a full-service high
school. The students are more intensely challenged in math and science within
these programs than in the general student population, and typically do a
senior project that is better than the math and science curricula in many
colleges. But they still are in the same building and taking many of the same
classes as everybody else.
That appears to be the most prevalent model
among the members of the National Consortium for Specialized Secondary Schools
of Mathematics, Science and Technology (http://ncsssmst.org)
which claimed more than 100 members serving 39,000 students in December 2007.
Example: Aberdeen High School in Harford County,
Md., which has gained $1 million in federal funding for technology, teacher
training, and enrichment field trips for its Science and Mathematics Academy. News accounts list high-level
assignments such as studying the nerve and cardiac damage caused by chemical
weapons, constructing a wind tunnel to test cars, and researching the effect of
temperature on combustion engines.
The Math and Science Academy at that school
takes up the top floor of the building and enrolls about 200 students, with
three times as many students applying as getting in. Internships and help on
the signature senior research project from area employers, including the U.S.
Army and McCormick & Co., are a key component of the academy's success.
The curriculum builds to a senior research
project, which each student designs and develops with a mentor who might be
employed at the Army Research Laboratory at Aberdeen Proving Ground, at
Battelle or at McCormick & Co. Inc.
For more, see their website: www.scienceandmathacademy.com
Take a look at the
class offerings at this math and science high school in the San Fernando Valley
And here's another one in Virginia