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Commission to Focus on Quality, Not on Access

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St Paul--The special commission named by the Reagan Administration to "renew and improve" American education will devote particular attention to grades 7 through 12, and will focus on raising "standards, rigor, and excellence" rather than on expanding "horizontal" access to education programs, according to its chairman, David P. Gardner.

'Practical Recommendations'

In addition, the members expect to make "practical recommendations" that may be carried out without additional money from federal or state sources.

Meeting with an eight-member panel of the 18-member National Commission on Excellence in Education here last week, Mr. Gardner expressed confidence that the full commission would be ready to draft "a blueprint for action" when it convenes on December 7th in Washington. Its final report is due by March 1983.

Secondary School Emphasized

Mr. Gardner, a former vice-president of the University of California system during Mr. Reagan's governorship and now president of the University of Utah, told panel members that he had talked at length with U.S. Secretary of Education Terrel H. Bell, who appoint-ed the commission members. Secretary Bell, Mr. Gardner reported, believes that the deficiencies in discipline and instruction in grades 7 through 12 have produced most of the serious problems facing the schools--and that therefore the commission should place particular emphasis on secondary-school students.

"The good done in elementary schools is lost in the middle and secondary schools, and that affects colleges," said Mr. Gardner.

Yvonne W. Larsen, vice-chairman of the commission and president of the San Diego Board of Education, agreed with his assessment, describing the junior high schools as "hotbeds" where pupils are treated like adults when they are most in need of adult guidance.

Grade Inflation Discussed

In addition to their discussion of the troubled upper grades, commission members expressed concern over the apparent superiority of private schools, grade inflation, and the decline in test scores and enrollments in core-curriculum courses.

Minnesota Governor Albert H. Quie, member of the commission and formerly the ranking minority member of the House Labor and Education Committee during his long tenure in Congress, served as host for the one-day session. The Republican governor is beset by unprecedented budget problems that are expected to delay local school aid and to force sharp retrenchment in higher education.

But budget cuts did not seem to be on the panel's agenda. To talk of increased funds, said Mr. Gardner, "is to put the cart before the horse." Instead, he said, the public's confidence in education must be restored before there would be reason to hope for increased financial support.

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