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Presidential Scholars Are Lauded

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WASHINGTON--High-school seniors from across the nation who were selected as this year's Presidential scholars were honored here last week.

President Reagan and Secretary of Education William J. Bennett lauded the 139 scholars in two ceremonies, and they served as the audience for a speech on education by Vice President George Bush, the Republican Presidential candidate.

Another Administration official, Chester E. Finn Jr., assistant secretary of education for research and improvement, met the scholars in a less ceremonial setting, engaging them in a discussion of the state of American education.

Mr. Finn outlined reasons for concern in a speech, focusing on students' poor performance on a variety of standardized tests. "Most of you seem to have at least temporarily transcended those problems and have a good chance of making something of yourselves,'' Mr. Finn said.

Prior to the session, the scholars took the same test on history and literature that was administered in 1986 as part of the National Assessment of Educational Progress, and that Mr. Finn and the researcher Diane Ravitch used as the basis for their 1987 book, What Do Our 17-Year-Olds Know?.

Mr. Finn said the scholars answered an average of 84 percent of the questions correctly, while the national averages were barely above 50 percent.

In the Presidential Scholars program, which has existed for 24 years, the winners are selected by a panel of educators and a commission of private citizens appointed by the President from a pool of candidates who achieve high scores on college- entrance examinations.

Since 1979, students who participate in the Arts Recognition and Talent Search program have also been considered as candidates for the arts component of the Presidential Scholars program.

Of this year's 139 winners, 121 were chosen solely for academic achievement, leadership quality, and character, while 18 were also recognized for their achievements in the performing or creative arts.

Joining the students at the week-long, expense-paid celebration in Washington were teachers each had identified as the educator who had the most infuence on his or her academic achievement.

In his remarks, Mr. Bush singled out Walter M. Bartman, an art teacher at Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda, Md., who he said was accompanying his fourth Presidential Scholar. The teacher-recognition component of the program was established in 1983.

In addition to the Washington trip, the scholars each receive a $1,000 scholarship from the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation.--J.M.

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