Students at Grant Sawyer Middle School in Las Vegas are encouraged to get involved in community service and public affairs. Even so, officials at the 1,200-student school were surprised when a student petition that complained about a lack of essential resources was sent to state lawmakers.
The petition, which also arrived at a local newspaper, said the school lacked chairs, desks, textbooks, classroom materials, and lockers. It also complained about limitations on teachers' copying of materials.
The students' initiative did not surprise Principal Ronnie Tee Smith. It was the inaccuracy of their complaints that did.
"Every student at my school should have a textbook in math, English, social studies, and science," said Mr. Smith, who noted that the school is currently being expanded and will include enough lockers for all students.
"In our supply room we have an abundance of materials for children," he said. "There are boxes of scissors, boxes of markers and crayons." He added that the school has a graphic artist on its staff to help teachers design and assemble materials.
Mr. Smith said that while the students may have meant well, many of the 140 who signed the document may have done so without reading it, since the construction and the wealth of available materials are evident.
It turns out to be a matter that won't require Nevada lawmakers' attention this spring.
"I wish they had come to me first," Mr. Smith said.
In the nation's capital, state standards for student learning are all the rage as President Clinton pushes his new national-standards proposal.
One observer pointed out last week that states are a step ahead, and that activity in state capitals appears to be brisk.
John F. Jennings, the director of the Center on National Education Policy in Washington, said state standards are "going through another spurt."
"Many states have gone through the phase of talking about standards, and now they're going to implement them," the former House Democratic aide told two groups of principals in town to lobby Congress.
Getting students to do more may not take so much prodding. Mr. Jennings noted that a recent report by Public Agenda found that 65 percent of high school students said they could learn more if they just tried.
--KATHLEEN KENNEDY MANZO & JOETTA L. SACK