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Group Suggests Software Publishers Boycott N.E.A. Evaluation Service

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A group of software publishers last week charged that a software-evaluation service run by the National Education Association represents a conflict of interest because it charges evaluation fees of publishers that seek to have their software certified as "teacher-tested" and controls sales of approved programs.

The publishers' group, which represents 120 software publishing, developing, and related firms, recommends in a six-page report that publishers stop using the service.

The evaluation service was launched in May 1983 by the nea, its nonprofit education foundation--the National Foundation for the Improvement of Education--and Cordatum, a Bethesda, Md., computer consulting firm.

Evaluation Costs Criticized

The report says that "if the nea is concerned with its stated goal of assisting parents, teachers, and administrators in selecting quality educational software, then the organization should allocate funds toward that endeavor" rather than charging software publishers. Other organizations with public-interest objectives, the report argues, do not ask the software publishing industry to bear the cost of evaluation.

Charges for evaluation, originally available in a special introductory rate of $100, are determined by the amount of time the programs must be run and on the complexity of the design of the program, according to nea officials. The charges range from $450 for about 20 minutes of student "run time" to up to $1,000 for testing an entire curriculum program in schools.

nea officials were reviewing the report last week and said they would respond in a letter to the software group's members this week.

Certification and Sales

The report also charges that publishers who have their software evaluated by the computer service are unnecessarily required to have Cordatum sell any certified products.

The computer service drew strong opposition from educators and legislators last year. Representative Marge Roukema, Republican of New Jersey, and former Secretary of Education Terrel H. Bell charged that the nea was placing itself in an unethical position by both endorsing and selling computer software.

According to Carol A. Trawick, assistant director of the evaluation service, all revenues from product sales go directly to Cordatum.

The software publishers argue, however, that "the close, or even inseparable, tie" between the computer service and Cordatum "leads us to conclude that the evaluation program is secondary to the profit-making interest" of the computer consulting firm.--sr

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