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Elementary Principals Oppose Prayer in Schools

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New Orleans--The National Association of Elementary School Principals has decided prayer has no place in the classroom.

The 400 delegates of the organization who voted during its annual meeting here last week resolved instead that prayer and other religious practices are family responsibilities and should be left to the home and the church.

The resolution, which is now association policy, comes on the heels of the recent defeat in the U.S. Senate of a constitutional amendment that would have permitted vocal, organized prayer in the public schools.

The delegates, who represented the association's 22,000 members, said their opposition to prayer in the public schools was based on court decisions and the constitutional language that calls for the separation of church and state.

But the controversy that usually surrounds school prayer and other education issues did not find its way to the association's four-day meeting.

The delegates zipped through 23 proposed resolutions, unanimouslyadopting all of them without debate.

The issues that captured the most interest involved mathematics and science education, school-business partnerships, and computer literacy.

Two separate resolutions adopted by delegates urged school principals to take the lead in improving both mathematics and science education. Samuel G. Sava, the association's executive director, said children should be well schooled in mathematics and science before they reach the secondary level.

To help foster that, he said, programs to train principals and teachers in mathematics and science are greatly needed.

In elementary and middle schools, he said, only 11 percent of the principals and 6 percent of the teachers have educational backgrounds in science.

The federal government should provide some assistance to the states to help school personnel upgrade their skills in these areas, Mr. Sava said.

The association also adopted a resolution urging principals to start school-business partnerships. In more than 200 already existingadopt-a-school programs nationwide, business executives are sharing their skills, providing classroom equipment, and lending some of their experts to help out in the schools, naesp officials said.

Computer literacy also commanded considerable attention; the meeting's theme was "Education for a Technological Future." A recent survey conducted by the principals' group showed that 29 percent of principals use their schools' microcomputers exclusively for management purposes, while 50 percent use their equipment to teach computer literacy and drill in other subjects. In a resolution, the delegates urged members to seek legislation and financial assistance for developing and improving computer literacy in their schools.

In a speech delivered at the meeting, Philip Caldwell, chairman of the Ford Motor Company, proposed the use of satellite communication technology to revitalize elementary and high-school programs. Mr. Caldwell said the linking of satellites, television, computers, and cable networks would offer "extraordinary opportunities" for schoolchildren.

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