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David P. Gardner, who serves as chairman of the National Commission on Excellence in Education--a panel appointed by President Reagan to recommend improvements in schools and colleges--has been selected by a search committee to become president of the University of California system.

The appointment of Mr. Gardner, who has been president of the University of Utah for the past 10 years, must be approved by the board of regents of the California system.

The system includes nine universities and five medical schools and has an annual operating budget of $4 billion.

Mr. Gardner, whose commission is scheduled to deliver its final report in April, is a former vice president of the California system and a former vice chancellor of the University of California at Santa Barbara.

The Tennessee legislature has passed a bill requiring public-school classes to begin each day with a minute of silence. Gov. Lamar Alexander has not indicated whether he will sign the bill.

A 1982 law requiring a minute of silence for purposes of meditation or prayer was declared unconstitutional last October by a U.S. district-court judge. The new bill does not mention prayer.

A spokesman for the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee said the group will wait until the bill becomes law and is put into effect before deciding whether to take any action against it.

Hearings began last week on what is expected to be the final stage of Florida's literacy-test case, Debra P. v. Turlington. The class action, filed in 1977 on behalf of 10 black students, involves the question of whether the state-mandated high-school "exit test" discriminates against minorities. An earlier ruling held that the test itself is not biased, but that the state should delay its use until those students educated in segregated systems would no longer be affected.

At issue in the current hearings is whether the material included in the test is taught in Florida public schools. The nonjury trial, which is being conducted in the U.S. District Court in Tampa, was expected to last through last week.

Ralph Turlington, Florida's commissioner of education, has said he is "optimistic" that the court will rule in his favor. Meanwhile, the state is advising school districts that passing the test is a requirement for graduation for this year's high-school seniors.

Colorado, North Carolina, and Ohio will be the first states to participate in a new national science-education program funded by the Standard Oil Company of Ohio and directed by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (See Education Week, Feb. 23, 1983).

The program, Science Resources for Schools, will provide teachers, administrators, librarians, and other school personnel with information, ideas, and materials designed to improve science education. It will focus on junior-high students, and will be introduced in the schools in the fall of 1983.

About 15,000 pupils in New York City will not lose their free bus service on March 1, as was planned. "Vociferous" objections from some sections of the school district staved off the action, a district spokesman said.

State Senator John Marchi of Staten Island was one of several city leaders who led behind-the-scenes meetings that came up with the $1.8 million in city and state funds needed to continue bus service. Many Staten Island pupils would have been affected by the busing reduction.

The reduction was one of many economy moves proposed when the state withheld $40 million from the New York City school system last fall in a dispute over funds for the handicapped.

A compromise was reached early this year that included a raise in school-lunch fees and the busing cuts.

Marilyn Turner, a chemistry and physics teacher in Ludington, Mich., has been named Michigan's High School Science Teacher of the Year.

Earlier accounts in the press said David Bolhuis, a high-school biology teacher in Hudsonville, had received the award. He was a finalist.

Mr. Bolhuis and another Hudsonville biology teacher, William Van Koughnet, attracted the attention of the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan for teaching creationism, according to the group's executive director, Howard L. Simon, and for distributing a two-page religious handbook to students called "A Biblical Account of the Past."

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