The New College Try

Universities are working to improve public schools and to prepare more poor and minority kids for higher education

At the Rosemont Elementary School in Baltimore, college prep begins early. How early? Starting in prekindergarten, students take some of their lessons from tenured university faculty. Undergraduates serve as teachers' aides, and kids spend their summer vacations studying on the campus of a nearby college. When students graduate from the fifth grade, they get a handshake and a diploma from a university president. So it was understandable that when a visitor recently toured the school, a bespectacled third-grader asked, "Excuse me, Miss? Are you a professor?"

Not long ago, few Rosemont students were considered college material. Reared in downtown Baltimore's roughest...

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