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When the New York Stock Exchange talks, teachers listen--especially when there is $10,000 at stake.

"We're getting a lot of calls," an exchange spokesman said last week. "The unions are very enthusiastic."

What they are excited about is a new competition, announced last week, under which the exchange will award $10,000 to the New York teacher who comes up with the best idea as to how business can assist the schools in "preparing young people for the future." Several other teachers could win prizes of $2,000 and $500, the spokesman said.

The competition, he said, is part of an ongoing effort to promote education in the exchange's home state. It also sponsors seminars, workshops, and tours, and provides resources and internships for an "adopted" high school near Wall Street.

"The chairman felt there's more that business could be doing to aid the educational process ... [and] no one ever asked the people down in the trenches what they thought," the exchange spokesman said.

Noting that many exchange workers and potential investors are educated in New York schools, the spokesman added, "It's always better for us if all different constituencies the exchange has to deal with are better educated."

The contest is limited to certified New York State teachers; all entries should be submitted to the New York Stock Exchange by April 8. For more information, write or call Judy Poole at 11 Wall St., New York, N.Y. 10005; (212) 623-2009.

Arizona's prospective public-school teachers are finding it harder to pass a basic-skills test since the state legislature raised the required minimum score last August, recently released scores indicate.

Forty-five percent of the 3,300 teacher trainees who have taken the Arizona Teacher Proficiency Exam since August have failed to pass it, compared with 35 percent before the legislature changed the passing score, according to William L. Hunter, coordinator for teacher testing for the Arizona Department of Education. The exam, which prospective teachers must pass to be certified in the state, is offered each month and can be retaken as many times as is needed.

The new law requires prospective teachers to score at least 80 percent in each of the three sections: reading, general mathematics, and English grammar. The previous law required a composite score of 80 percent.

Of the prospective teachers who have taken the test since August, 14percent failed the math section, 24 percent the reading, and 39 percent the grammar.

"It would appear that some of these people have been away from English-grammar rules for a long time," Mr. Hunter said.

The Kentucky Association of School Administrators, having determined that quiz-show-style academic competition is not harmful to students, has announced plans toel5lform a statewide system of such competitions.

Currently, some 62 of the state's 180 school districts have extracurricular competition programs. There are now five leagues, the first of which was launched in 1982 as a "by-product" of the state's school-reform movement, according to V. Wayne Young, a spokesman for the administrators' group.

"Schools and students began to pay more attention to academics and this was a natural outgrowth," he said.

Under the programs, students compete against each other in a format similar to that used in television's "G.E. College Bowl," an aca-demic quiz show involving collecompetitors that was popular in the 1960's.

The administrators' group formed a task force to examine the dangers and benefits to students of such contests. They found "no apparent evidence" that academic competition is "harmful to the educational and psychological welfare of students," according to a final report.

Under the group's proposal, the five separate leagues operating in the state will be merged into one that uses standardized rules, trains coaches and officials, and includes in the competition questions that require higher-order thinking skills and not just quick responses.

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