B.U. To Open Accelerated High School for Gifted Students

By Meg Sommerfeld — April 29, 1992 4 min read

Boston University will open a private high school in the fall of 1993 that will require students to complete their first year of college coursework during their senior year, university officials announced last week.

Boston University President John R. Silber said the school will fill an educational void by giving academically talented students access to an accelerated curriculum on the campus of a large university.

“Today we don’t offer, for the most part, anything more in the four years of high school than we used to offer in the first two years,’' said Mr. Silber. “We waste some of the most creative years of adolescents’ lives in nonsense.’'

The four-year day school will have a traditional core curriculum that will include four years of foreign language study--two of which must be in Latin or Greek--four years of English, history, and mathematics, and three years of science.

Peter Schweich, a university vice president who chairs the committee overseeing the school’s creation, called the curriculum “a highly classical education that has been severely updated to meet the needs of our highly technological world.’'

During their freshman and sophomore years, students will study solely at the academy, which will be housed in a separate facility on the university’s campus. As juniors, they will enroll in biology and foreign-language classes at the university, and by their senior year they will take all their classes at the university.

Tuition at the academy will be $12,500 a year, Mr. Silber said, about $4,000 less than undergraduate tuition. An undetermined number of scholarships will be available.

Academy graduates can choose to automatically enroll as sophomores at B.U. or transfer to other colleges.

‘No Relation’ to Chelsea

The university gained national attention in 1989 when it assumed the administrative reins of the troubled urban school system in Chelsea, Mass.

Mr. Silber denied that the creation of the academy represents any lessening of its commitment to the Chelsea schools, and dismissed any comparisons between the projects. He estimated that it would take the Chelsea schools, a system he said was in “educational bankruptcy’’ at the time of B.U.'s takeover, at least seven more years to reach standards comparable to those of the proposed academy.

The two endeavors “are complementary things,’' he said.

Two members of the academy’s seven-member advisory committee are also involved in the administration of the Chelsea project, and a third committee member, Edwin J. Delattre, the acting dean of B.U.'s school of education, is also “peripherally involved’’ with management of the Chelsea schools, according to Mr. Silber.

In its first year, the academy plans to admit 60 9th- and 10th-grade students, and university officials expect to have an enrollment of about 135 students by 1995.

Among the criteria to be considered in the admissions process are a student’s academic record, scores on the Secondary School Aptitude Test and a separate academy entrance exam, written recommendations, and an interview.

Startup costs are estimated to be $500,000 to $600,000 over the first two years, Mr. Silber said. He expects that the combination of tuition and fundraising will make the academy self-supporting within four years.

The academy will be run by a headmaster and a board of trustees elected by the university’s trustees. It will have a separate full-time faculty that will be supplemented by graduate-student teaching assistants from the university, Mr. Schweich said.

An Unusual Program

While many high schools award college credit for in-house courses or allow students to take classes at local universities, few actually require students to complete a year or more of college-level work, according to Paula P. Brownlee, president of the Association of American Colleges.

However, a number of colleges have created on-campus schools or established partnerships with local schools that allow students to complete both their high school and college education in six or seven years rather than eight.

Seattle (Wash.) University, a private school, established a prep-school program in 1973, in which students can complete high-school coursework in three years, and then enter a three-year B.A. program at the university.

In other cases, colleges simply admit students before they finish high school. One such institution, Simon’s Rock College of Bard in Barrington, Mass., accepts most of its students at age 16 or 17.

Simon’s Rock students generally complete two years of college by what would be the equivalent of their senior year in high school. About one-third stay on for two more years to earn a bachelor’s degree, while the rest transfer elsewhere as juniors.

“There’s no question that bright students are capable of doing this level of work, and there’s no question that the public schools find it more and more difficult to serve [these] students,’' said Bernard F. Rogers, the dean of Simon’s Rock.

Students at the University of Chicago Laboratory School used to enroll directly in the university after their sophomore year, but today most students remain at the high school for four years while also taking several college classes.

This change was precipitated by what Mary Lee Hoganson, director of the school’s counseling department, termed “adjustment problems.’' Students graduating from college at 19 or 20 often “weren’t ready socially or emotionally to go on to the business world or their job world,’' she said.

Even today, she noted, “many of the more selective colleges have been more reluctant to admit students that are even a year younger because they do find it’s harder for them to make the social and academic adjustment at the same time.’'

Mr. Silber dismissed any comparison of the academy to university lab schools. “We’re not trying to experiment with kids ... [or] help people running the school of education prove bizarre theories.’'

A version of this article appeared in the April 29, 1992 edition of Education Week as B.U. To Open Accelerated High School for Gifted Students