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The American Association of University Professors has established a commission to study the phenomenon of academic censorship at the high-school level.

Called the aaup Commission on Academic Freedom in Precollegiate Education, the 12-member panel is chaired by Robert O'Neill, the new president of the University of Virginia, and includes representatives from higher education and education associations, according to Jonathan Knight, associate secretary of the aaup

"The commission was formed because we have become increasingly concerned with the growing number of incidents across the nation of censorship directed at the secondary schools," Mr. Knight said.

The panel, which plans to meet for the first time in September, will also address the ramifications for higher education of censorship at the secondary-school level.

The National Science Teachers Association and the Children's Book Council have published a list of outstanding K-8 science trade books issued in 1984.

The 63 books were selected by a nine-member book-review panel appointed by the nsta in cooperation with the council. Selection was based on the criteria of accuracy, readability, and format. In addition, information in the books was found to be consistent with current scientific knowledge and not distorted by personal values.

Each review provides the book's title, author, publisher, grade level, and number of pages. Reviews also note whether the book includes a glossary or index.

Single copies of the list are available at no cost by sending a stamped (37 cents), self-addressed envelope to the Children's Book Council Inc., 67 Irving Pl., New York, N.Y. 10003.

Pointing out that "there is little proof that [textbooks] are a principal or even significant cause of the alleged 'slide into mediocrity,"' John Maxwell, executive director of the National Council of Teachers of English, has called for a more balanced view of instructional materials.

Writing in the May issue of the Bulletin, a monthly journal published by the National Association of Secondary School Principals, Mr. Maxwell characterizes textbooks as "a whipping boy" in national discussions on school improvement. And he notes that, "were it not for expertly prepared textbook material, things could be quite a bit worse than they are alleged to be."

Nonetheless, the author predicts that the current attention on texts will prompt several changes, including the elimination of certain textbooks.

"There is broad agreement that badly written texts must go," he observes. "The excesses in the use of readability formulae, which in turn have shaped stilted sentences and simplistic paragraphs, have already been recognized by publishers as unworthy of them and unsuitable for young readers."

Mr. Maxwell says he also thinks educators should stop hoping that textbooks can cover everything about a subject and instead determine what knowledge is most important.

He notes, too, that there must be greater congruence between textbooks, curriculum, and standardized tests. He believes major revisions of the textbook-selection process must be made, including increased research on textbooks. And he backs added guidance for teachers on when and how to use textbooks more effectively.

But he cautions that it is important to "avoid being panicked into changing our textbooks radically."

The American Education Coalition, a nonprofit organization founded in 1983 to promote parental rights and local control in education, has launched a series of bimonthly papers that will deal with nationwide education issues.

Called "Education Policy Insights," the series is intended to provide educators and policymakers with information and analyses on the various issues, according to Marcella Donovan Hadeed, the coalition's director.

In the first issue, Brigitte Berger, chairman of the sociology department at Wellesley College, takes a look at the "renascence of education." In her four-page essay, Ms. Berger calls for "the publicly recognized participation of American parents in the effort to revitalize the nation's schools." Education reform, she contends, cannot be achieved without the active and continued involvement of the family.

For information on the papers, which are available for $2, write the American Education Coalition, 721 Second St., N.E., Washington, D.C. 20002.

Sally Estes, associate editor of the American Library Association's journal Booklist, has compiled an annotated bibliography on the culture of the Hispanic community. The list, which includes films and videos as well as adult and teen-age fiction and nonfiction, will appear in the June 15 issue of the publication.

Among the novels featured in the list are Pocho by Jose Antonio Villarreal, which chronicles the Depression-era childhood and adolescence of a Mexican migrant worker in California, and House on Mango Street, which tells of the life of a Hispanic girl growing up in urban America.

Among the nonfiction included in the list are an anthology of Mexican-American literature and a number of autobiographies. Films include "Against Wind and Tide: A Cuban Odyssey" and the Academy-award-winning "Angel and Big Joe."

For more information, write Barbara Duree, Booklist, 50 East Huron St., Chicago, Ill. 60611.

Four doctoral students in education have been named winners of the fourth annual Education Research Awards Competition of the Association of American Publishers. The competition, launched in 1981 by the school division of the aap, has provided grants to 13 doctoral students in education since its inception.

This year's recipients, each of whom will receive a $4,000 grant to complete his or her research, are:

Harrier C. Bebout, University of Wisconsin-Madison, for work on the effects of teaching children to represent "simple addition and subtraction verbal problems with canonical and noncanonical number sentences";

Barbara M. Hunter, University of Illinois, for work on the effects of prose structure, visual-display design, and prose/visual-display interactions on comprehension in basal readers and content-area texts;

Timothy V. Rasinski, Ohio State University, for his study of the factors of surface-level reader-text interactions that contribute to fluency in reading; and

Helen C. Stuetzel, State University of New York at Albany, for her research on basal-reader manuals.--ab

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