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A journal aiming to bridge the gap between the theory and the practice of teaching composition made its debut this fall. Published by the University of Southern California, The Writing Instructor will appear quarterly.

"The journal will appeal to teachers interested in the theory behind practice and in the practical application of theory," explains Shirley Rose, managing editor. Ms. Rose is one of the six usc graduate students in rhetoric, linguistics, and literature who founded the journal and serve on its editorial board.

The first issue includes articles on conferences between the student and the writing instructor and on the value of "role-playing" as a method of teaching composition.

Teachers who are new to the field may find the material particularly helpful, says Elspeth Stuckey, another member of the editorial board, since some new techniques, if applied incorrectly, can lead to "disastrous" results.

The journal will include major articles, synopses of pertinent research, "tear-out" sheets on principles of teaching, and reviews of textbooks by teachers who have used the texts in the classroom.

For more information, write to The Writing Instructor, c/o Freshman Writing Program, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, Calif. 90007.

Childhood lead poisoning remains a significant problem, not only in cities but in more rural areas as well, according to a survey by the Centers for Disease Control (cdc) in Atlanta.

From April 1 to June 30 of this year, 4,883 of the 136,304 children screened in 62 lead-poisoning programs were found to have toxic levels of lead in their bodies. Since October 1980, a total of 392,396 children were screened; 15,386 were diagnosed as having lead toxicity.

Lead-poisoning-prevention programs frequently go beyond merely screening children who come into health clinics, the survey reports. Many programs are also equipped to check children who are not served by the clinics, to obtain long-term treatment for children who require it, and to identify and eliminate the sources of lead exposure for the children. Besides chips of paint, the most common sources of lead include lead toys, storage batteries, and ceramic dishes.

Between April and the end of June, prevention programs tested 15,000 high-risk children for lead toxicity in their homes, followed up on 73 percent of the children under medical care, and investigated some 3,200 houses and apartments, 2,200 of which contained lead hazards. The hazards were eliminated from 1,900 of the dwellings.

The most common symptoms of lead poisoning in children include loss of appetite, anemia, apathy, extreme irritability, clumsiness, loss of recently acquired developmental skills, and sporadic vomiting.

Black children will catch up to white children in their reading skills in 20 years if the current national trend continues, according to one expert's analysis of data from the National Assessment of Reading.

Edward Fry, director of the Reading Center at Rutgers University, presented his analysis at the National Reading Conference held last week in Dallas.

His projection is based on three nationwide assessments of the reading skills of nine-year-olds. The assessments, which were carried out in 1971, 1975, and 1980, have shown that all nine-year-olds are improving in their reading skills, but that black children and those defined as "disadvantaged" are improving most rapidly.

"Equality should be achieved about the year 2000," Mr. Fry concluded. He noted, however, that during the late 1960's and 1970's, many of these children may have participated in federally sponsored reading programs--for example, Title I and "Right to Read." Continued improvement may depend on the fate of such programs, he warned.

For black high-school students, the projections are not quite as favorable. Although they are improving more quickly than are their white counterparts, Mr. Fry said, the present trend indicates that "equality lies far beyond the year 2000."

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