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4 New Research Centers Planned

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WASHINGTON--The Education Department will open a competition this spring for four new university-based research centers to study the teaching of specific subject areas in the nation's schools, according to department officials.

One center will focus on mathematics, another will study science, a third will study literature, and a fourth will examine all subjects in elementary schools, an official in the office of educational research and improvement said. In addition, the department and the National Endowment for the Arts will jointly create a center on art education, the official said.

Unlike the 11 existing research centers funded by the department, which examine broad topics such as teacher training and educational technology, the new centers will have the narrower focus of "looking at what is being learned and taught'' in particular subjects, according to Conrad Katzenmeyer, a senior associate in the research office.

"They will study the nature of what is going on in the classroom, what materials are used, what instructional approaches are applied, [and] what kinds of assessment are currently done,'' he added. "We will ask them to evaluate this and provide assistance to states and local school districts that might have questions.''

Subject areas are an appropriate emphasis for the centers, according to Laurie Garduque, director of governmental and professional liaison at the American Educational Research Association. "This is the direction research has pointed to,'' she said. "This is the next uncharted area.'' However, she added, "we would like to see the centers have much more funding.''

The math, science, literature, and art centers will be funded by three-year, $500,000 grants; the department and the arts endowment will each contribute $250,000 to the art center. The department's existing centers are funded at about $1 million a year, Mr. Katzenmeyer added.

The elementary-school center will be funded under a five-year cooperative agreement. Under this type of arangement, department officials would exercise more authority over the center's research agenda than they would under a grant.

Mr. Katzenmeyer also said the longer funding period for the center is necessary because it will study all subject areas taught in the elementary schools.

In addition, he said, "I want the elementary center to take the lead in doing any descriptive survey research that might need to be done.''

The results of the elementary center's research could be used by any of the other centers, he added. "I expect the others to go light at the K-6 level,'' Mr. Katzenmeyer said.

The department will announce the grant competition in coming weeks in the Federal Register. Officials said they expected to begin sending out applications by May 15.--R.R.

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