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The scores of college-bound students on the tests of the American College Testing Program were down one-tenth of a point last year, officials report, but they say they are not concerned by the decline.

"We discourage overinterpretation of the small changes in average scores that occur from year to year," said Michael Kane, the act's vice president for research and development.

"Instead, we think that current performance should be analyzed in terms of trends over a number of years."

The drop in the average act composite score from 18.4 to 18.3 last year is seen as consistent with the stabilization of test scores reported by the College Board, which administers the Scholastic Aptitude Test.

Between 1969 and 1975, act scores went from 19.9 to 18.3. Since 1975, officials say, the decline seems to have "bottomed out," and for the last few years, the average score has been between a low of 18.3 and a high of 18.6. (The score range is 1 to 36.)

Test results do indicate, however, that mathematical skills are still declining. The average score earned by college-bound students on the mathematics section was 17.5 in 1975 and 16.9 last year.


The Public Education Fund, a new national organization established to help strengthen public and private support for the schools, has awarded grants totalling $359,550 to six community-based education groups.

The one-year grants, which were announced last month, have been awarded to the Greater Wilmington (Del.) Development Council Education Project, $47,000; the Paterson (N.J.) Education Foundation, $18,000; the Tucson (Ariz.) Educational Enrichment Fund, $52,000; the East Valley Educational Foundation, San Jose, Calif., $85,500; the San Francisco Education Fund, $82,050; and the Washington (D.C.) Parent Group Fund, $75,000.

In announcing the awards, Fletcher L. Byrom, the organization's board chairman, said the grant recipients have "developed programs that can improve the quality of public education in the classroom and individual schools, and that increases the confidence of the general public in the public schools." Mr. Byrom is former chief executive officer of the Koppers Company and the chairman of the Committee for Economic Development.

The national organization, which is based in Pittsburgh, was established in February with initial grants of $2 million from the Ford Foundation and $300,000 from the Richard King Mellon Foundation.

The six grants are part of a five-year program of technical assistance and grants for developmental projects that will eventually help more than 40 urban communities strengthen or establish local education funds.


Based on a random sampling of 675 American adults who have children, an educational research firm has concluded that a majority of the nation's parents believe "the primary purpose of education is to enrich the quality of life rather than just to achieve financial success."

Ninety-six percent of the parents interviewed said they considered education to be more than a means to achieve financial success, according to a report on the survey, "The Grolier Survey: What Parents Believe About Education."

Nonetheless, about 75 percent of the parents surveyed said a major purpose of education is to achieve financial success. About twice as many nonwhite respondents, according to the survey, said the primary purpose of education is to help achieve financial success.

The survey also found that most parents (60 percent) believe that teachers' salaries should be increased and that the school year should not be changed from its current length (71 percent).

The survey was conducted by Research & Forecasts Inc., a New York-based public-opinion research firm, for Grolier Incorporated, a publishing firm and distributor of encyclopedias and children's learning materials.

About 63 percent of the parents said they "occasionally or frequently" contact their children's teachers about progress in school. About 69 percent said they involved themselves in their children's homework "every day or nearly every day," according to the survey.

About 75 percent of the parents said they encourage their children to research answers to questions by using reference books at home or in a library.

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