Pennsylvania To Hold Summer 'High School' for Sciences

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In a step designed to improve the outlook for both the economy and the students in the state, the Pennsylvania Department of Education this summer will sponsor the first Pennsylvania School for the Sciences, a five-week intensive program for high-school sophomores and juniors.

"The school is for high-ability students with a consuming interest in science," said John J. McDermott, senior science advisor for the Pennsylvania Department of Education. Several other states--Indiana and North Carolina, for example--have similar summer programs, he said.

Two Purposes

The summer program, which will be held at Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh, has two purposes, Mr. McDermott said. The first is to give between 50 and 70 high-school students a chance to take advanced, intensive classes in biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics, and computer science.

The students will be paired with researchers and will study also with scientists and mathematicians from local industry, he said. Scientists from industry and academe will offer seminars, and local industries have offered the use of their laboratory facilities.

The program has another goal as well, Mr. McDermott said. "We see that Pennsylvania's economic future will no longer lie in coal, gas, oil, and steel, but in small, privately owned high-technology firms," he said. "They will need the scientific manpower." The school, he added, is one attempt to attract the "best and brightest" to careers in science and technology.

Funding for the school's first year--about $120,000--will come from several sources, all outside the state education department and the federal government. Half of the funds will be provided through a "challenge" grant from the Pennsylvania Science and Engineering Foundation, which is part of the state's department of commerce, Mr. McDermott said.

The challenge money was matched by funds from private sources, including the Pittsburgh Foundation, the Buhl Foundation, the Fisher Charitable Trust of Fisher Scientific Instruments, and others. The main contribution of the state education department comes from personnel time and other resources, Mr. McDermott said.

The students, who will be notified of their acceptance shortly, will come from many areas of the state. Sophomores and juniors were chosen, Mr. McDermott said, because they would be returning to their schools, and could help in a statewide effort to improve science and mathematics education.

Chosen from 2,500 applicants, the initial participants were selected "solely on the basis of ability," Mr. McDermott said. They come from public, private, and parochial schools within the state; the only stipulation is that their parents be Pennsylvania taxpayers.

Active in Science

An informal, not-yet-completed "profile" of those chosen shows that all had Scholastic Aptitude Test (sat) or Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test (psat) scores of better than 700 in mathematics. "All are active in science," Mr. McDermott said; many, he added, have won awards at science fairs or been active in the Pennsylvania Junior Academy of Sciences.

Although the education officials who chose the students did not deliberately aim for a balance of ethnic and other factors, the group turned out to be representative of the general high-school population, according to Mr. McDermott. All ethnic groups are represented, and the group is almost evenly divided between boys and girls.

Both school officials and students responded enthusiastically to the program, and Mr. McDermott hopes to be able to expand it in the future. "I could start just as good a school with the ones we turned down,'' he said.--S.W.

Vol. 01, Issue 30

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