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A new estimate of the cost of proposed national education reforms has come from one who formerly managed the federal role in the schools.

Harold Howe 2nd, former U.S. Commissioner of Education, estimates that the cost of implementing the most-often-mentioned school reforms to be between $20 billion and $30 billion a year.

His estimate closely matches that of the American Association of School Administrators, which suggested last month on the basis of a survey of 28 districts that implementing the major proposals of the National Commission on Excellence in Education would add 20 percent to district budgets, for a national total of at least $21 billion. (See Education Week, Oct. 12, 1983.)

Writing in the November issue of the education journal Phi Delta Kappan, Mr. Howe concludes that in order to increase teacher salaries, introduce incentives and merit-pay plans, and extend the school day and year, the nation will have to spend about 25 percent more on public elementary and secondary education than it is spending this year.

Federal, state, and local expenditures for the public schools in 1983-84 will be $124.7 billion, according to estimates by the National Center for Education Statistics.

Mr. Howe writes that "there will be a multitude of additional costs''--for such things as additional science equipment and computers.

A group of the students who fare the best in the nation's high schools think that "the system" is too easy for students and that teachers acquiesce in that situation. But they do not think that a longer school day or school year will solve schools' quality problems.

In a survey of the 2,000 high-achieving students listed in the 14th annual edition of Who's Who Among American High School Students, pollsters from Educational Communications Inc. of Lake Forest, Ill., found that:

Eighty-two percent say the reason some students graduate from high school without basic skills is that they are permitted to choose "easy" courses.

66 percent say the educational system allows unqualified students to graduate.

Seventy-four percent say teachers who give passing grades to poorly performing students are part of the reason that the unqualified students can graduate.

Thirty-nine percent say schools might improve if the federal government set graduation requirements.

Sixty-nine percent say the quality of mathematics and science education should be improved.

Fifty-six percent say students should be given competency tests.

Seventy-six percent say the schools need better teachers.

And 67 percent would like to see more stringent graduation requirements.

On the political front, a majority of students polled say they think President Reagan is doing a "good" job with economic domestic policy (although 47 percent say they think he is not doing as well on the foreign front) and 32 percent say they would vote for him in the upcoming election.

Fully 83 percent of the students report that they have never tried drugs; 73 percent say they consider premarital sex taboo.

The questionnaire was developed with the assistance of the White House's drug-policy office; the Department of Health and Human Services; Martin E. Marty, professor of history and modern Christianity at the University of Chicago; and Stanley Wellborn, science editor of U.S. News and World Report.

Attempts to censor reading matter in the nation's public schools and libraries are on the rise, with "secular humanism" the most frequent target, according to a new study. But censorship attempts can be combated by establishing written policies to protect the "freedom to learn," the group that conducted the study says.

"Protecting the Freedom to Learn," a recent study conducted by People for the American Way, a nonprofit organization that works to counter what it views as attacks upon civil liberties, found that efforts to censor books, films, and school curricula "show no signs of diminishing."

The study, which is based on reported and publicized incidents of censorship in the 1982-83 school year, uncovered incidences of censorship in every state except Maine and Hawaii.

In addition to frequently cited books such as Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn and John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men, the study found that censors also attacked novels, textbooks, and curricula that promoted "the religion of secular humanism." This term, the study found, is interpreted by opponents to mean "anything from the teaching of evolution to sex education to discussions of students' opinions."

Most censorship efforts involving teaching materials, the study found, came from parents or school officials and could be resolved by the substitution of an alternate assignment.

Members of organized groups were more difficult to appease, the study found. "The person who's part of an organized censorship movement usually isn't deterred by the offer of an alternate reading assignment.''

Further, according to the study, "protests led by organized citizen groups against teaching materials almost always can be traced to national right-wing censorship organizations such as the Moral Majority, Phyllis Schlafly's Eagle Forum, the Texas-based Pro-Family Forum, and Mel and Norma Gabler's Educational Research Analysts Inc."

Written policies advising school officials on how to handle censorship complaints, the study concluded, can make the difference between censorship attempts and actual censorship. Included in the report, which is available from the civil-liberties group, are examples of model policies from various school districts.

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