Column One: Students

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Many of the nation's top high-school students study an hour or less a day, and few believe that higher academic standards or a national test would substantially boost student achievement, a national survey has found.

The findings come from a survey of 1,879 of the 700,000 high achievers listed in Who's Who Among American High School Students. Three-fourths of the students maintain A averages, and nearly all are bound for college.

Nevertheless, 56 percent of the respondents said they study seven hours a week or less, and more than three-fourths said they would work the same amount or less if a proposed national achievement test were implemented.

Fewer than a third said more rigorous standards would improve the quality of education at their school "a great deal," while three-fourths said a longer school year would not improve their school.

"What is wrong with our educational system that our best and brightest students are so unmotivated?" asked Paul Krouse, the publisher of Who's Who.

With the goal of reading 250 million pages over the next six months, some 150,000 students from New York and California are facing off against each other in a mammoth "read-a-thon."

Beginning this month, 125 schools from each state will pair off and challenge each other to read a set amount of pages by next spring. Over that period, they are also expected to write to each other and exchange class pictures, student newspapers, and other materials.

To help them along, the National Football League, one of the contest's corporate sponsors, will donate booklets containing football facts as prize incentives. Sports Illustrated for Kids, another sponsor, is also providing stickers and magazines.

The read-a-thon, known as "Books Across America," is part of "Books and Beyond,"a 13-year-old reading-incentive program that has spread to more than 4,000 schools nationwide. The program has won a grant from the federal National Diffusion Network.

New York City students needing guidance on homework can "dial-a-teacher."

The service, sponsored by the United Federation of Teachers, receives more than 50,000 calls a year or about 500 a day. It offers help in Spanish, Italian, Chinese, French, Haitian-Creole, Greek, and English. It is geared to elementary students, but accepts calls from older students and from parents.

The 40 teachers who staff the phone lines offer advice--but not answers. --R.R.

Vol. 11, Issue 11, Page 6

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