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N.I.E. Panel Delays Vote on Agenda, Awaits Action on Grant Competition

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Washington--The 12-member panel empowered to set the priorities of the National Institute of Education last week reviewed new research topics for the institute's laboratories and centers, but decided not to adopt them in light of a vote by a Congressional conference committee to delay for a year the onset of a competition for the sponsorship of the research facilities.

Last Tuesday, House and Senate conferees, considering each chamber's version of the fiscal 1984 education appropriations bill, agreed to cut nie's fiscal 1983 budget of $55.6 million by 13 percent, to $48.2 million.

They also agreed to language inserted in the bill by Sen. Mark O. Hatfield, Republican of Oregon, that would effectively delay for one year the Congressionally mandated competition for $30 million in grants to sponsor nie's research laboratories and centers. (See Education Week, Oct. 12, 1983)

Final Consideration Delayed

In response to the vote, the National Council on Educational Research (ncer), meeting in Washington, decided to delay its final consideration of a report by one of its subcommittees calling for several changes in the focus and governance of the laboratories and centers.

In addition, Alan R. Wilson, acting deputy director of nie, said the institute will cut all of its major programs by 10 percent and not initiate any new research in the coming year as a result of the budget cuts.

The draft report, written under the direction of Onalee McGraw, an ncer member and an aide to the House Select Committee on Children, Youth, and Families, makes a number of proposals. Among them:

A Nation at Risk, the report of the National Commission on Excellence in Education, should be used as a "guide" for "the direction and scope of nie's research centers.

The research centers should continue to be the "primary vehicles" for nie-sponsored research.

New centers for the study of writing, mathematics, physical and natural sciences, and the acquisition of foreign languages should be established. The "effective" work of the Center for the Study of Reading at the University of Illinois should be "sustained." And a center for "Implementation, Testing, and Evaluation" should be established to continue the "important" work done by the Institute for Research on Teaching at Michigan State and to explore effective methods of testing and evaluating students and teachers. These six topics "reflect the highest educational priorities of the American people," say the authors of the report.

Other areas of research that should be considered include "Education and the World of Work," which would focus on vocational programs, "the Study of Fine Arts," and "the Study of History, Geography, and Government." Ms. McGraw said her subcommittee did not endorse these subjects as strongly because they are potentially politically controversial.

Each center should establish a nine-member policy board, made up of three researchers or practicing educators, three representatives from business or industry, and three "from the community at large." Similarly, each of the nie-sponsored research laboratories, which would be renamed "Regional Educational Assistance Programs," should be guided by a 15-member policy board, representing the same constituencies, from within the region that the laboratory serves.

The number of laboratories should be increased from seven to between 12 and 15. There are currently 10 nie-sponsored centers, which, unlike the laboratories, focus on national rather than regional educational issues.

The council, which is chaired by George C. Roche III, president of Hillsdale College in Michigan, voted to drop from the draft "policy statement" a recommendation that nie-sponsored research centers "should not conduct research on public-policy issues." Ms. McGraw said the recommendation had been made to ensure that "the federal government not be in the business of supporting a public-policy think tank" that promotes one or another constituency's interests.

As a result of the Congressional vote last week, the institute will put the competition "in a holding pattern" for a year and extend the contracts of the existing laboratories and centers 12 months beyond their fall 1984 expiration dates, according to Mr. Wilson.

Asked if the research agenda outlined in the council's draft report was similar to that being considered for the laboratories and centers by nie's director, Manuel Justiz, Mr. Wilson said "there are not a whole lot of differences" between them. "They have meshed suprisingly well," he added.

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