Education: Launchpad for Superachievers

A remarkable junior-high plan turns out college-level pupils

The instructor, who holds a master's in history from UCLA, fires questions that leave no room for faked answers: "What does Herodotus say? Plutarch? Xenophon?" demands Paul Mertens, 53. And that is just for starters. "Where do they agree and disagree?" he asks. "Why? How much of a democracy was Athens?"

Down the hall, William Fitz-Gibbon, 50, whose degree in science is from M.I.T., uses an overhead projector to sketch a physics problem about the path of a falling projectile. As he extends the trajectory, 20 students jab at their calculators, shouting the coordinates of the projectile's path. One student looks...

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