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State and federal support of child-care programs for low-income families has dropped by 14 percent since 1981 as a result of the Reagan Administration's funding cuts for Title XX, the largest federally subsidized day-care program for poor families, according to a recent study by the Children's Defense Fund.

Helen Blank, who conducted the study, said that between 1982 and 1983 Title XX funds were reduced from $3.1 billion to $2.4 billion. She said 16 states have cut child-care services by more than the 21-percent reduction in Title XX funding.

During the last two years, 31 states have tightened eligibility requirements and 32 states are providing day-care services for fewer children, according to Ms. Blank.

In New York, for example, 42 percent of the children living outside New York City lost all or part of their child-care services, according to the report. In Illinois, the number of poor children receiving federally-subsidized child-care services dropped from 28,000 to 18,000; and in Pennsylvania, the number of children declined from 24,000 to 22,000.

Ms. Blank said four states "made it impossible for low-income families to receive child-care assistance who were not on [Aid to Families with Dependent Children]."

For copies of the report, "Children and Federal Child Care Cuts," send $6 to cdf Publications, 122 C St., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20001.

A new study evaluating student-teacher programs at 902 education schools around the country has ranked the program at the Universi-ty of Nebraska at Lincoln as the best.

The two-year study was conducted by James A. Johnson, director of clinical education and student services at the University of Northern Illinois, and John Yates, now professor of education at Southlands College in Wimbledon, England.

Twenty-four criteria were used to rank the programs, including the quality of their supervision of students, Mr. Johnson said, and 35 of the institutions "were judged excellent."

The three schools ranked just below the University of Nebraska were Towson State University in Maryland, Rider College in New Jersey, and Northern Illinois University, Mr. Johnson said.

Representatives of some 50 foundations spent two days in Atlanta earlier this month exploring ways to spend their money in support of efforts to improve mathematics and science education and the quality of teaching in elementary and secondary schools.

The meeting was sponsored by the Precollegiate Education Group of the Council on Foundations, an umbrella organization for 1,000 philanthropic organizations. Mary K. Leonard, director of the group, said grants in support of projects de-signed to upgrade teaching and mathematics and science education are now at the top of many foundation agendas.

The participants heard from Cecily Cannan Shelby, co-chairman of the National Science Board's Commission on Precollege Education in Mathematics, Science, and Technology, who told them, among other things, that they should focus their support on improving mathematics and science instruction at the elementary-school level.

Chester E. Finn Jr., professor of education and public policy at Vanderbilt University, discussed several ways that foundations might aid efforts to improve the quality of teaching in the schools, including the support of various efforts to reward good teaching.

Ms. Leonard noted that the number of grant proposals received by the 150 members of the Precollegiate Education Group is between three and four times higher than two years ago. "It's like trying to get blood out of a stone," she said, in noting that the foundations must turn most proposals down for a lack of funds.

Ms. Leonard also said that foundations are now much more interested in supporting precollegiate and public-school programs than they were five years ago. "In the past, few grants were made at the precollegiate level, and those that were usually went to the private schools, like Andover and Exeter, now that's completely changed," she said.

The leader of the organization that controls most after-school activities in Texas says he will propose a wide range of reforms to reduce the role of those activities in many schools in the state.

Bailey Marshall, the director of the University Interscholastic League, said last week that he would make the recommendations when the uil meets Oct. 16 in Austin. Mr. Marshall said he decided to make the proposals to ease growing pressure in the state for ending many programs altogether.

A committee appointed by the governor and state legislature, headed by the prominent industrialist H. Ross Perot, is investigating the role of extracurricular activities in Texas schools.

Mr. Marshall proposes reducing the number of games played in certain sports, eliminating interscholastic contests in elementary schools, reducing the size of high-school coaching staffs, and moving competition in tennis and golf to the summer season.

He said he would also seek a freeze on activities sponsored by the uil and perhaps the elimination of some programs.

"Only about 10 percent" of the school districts in the state, Mr. Marshall said, place enough emphasis on sports to require the additional state regulations he favors. Officials in those districts, he said, need such statewide regulations so they are not blamed by their community for cutting athletic programs.

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