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Middle-school education should be more student-centered and less academically focused, a national panel of educators has concluded.

In a 10-point plan to reorient the curriculum, the Council on Middle Level Education of the National Association of Secondary School Principals stresses that early adolescence is a time when many young people have limited attention spans and need to explore their developing personalities and their environment in "active" ways.

The reform movement's curriculum mandates may be appropriate for high schools, but they "are not the recipe for excellence in middle-level education," the panel warned. "In fact, they can destroy an adolescent's future."

The BellSouth Foundation has awarded a total of $1.63 million in its first round of grants aimed at improving elementary, secondary, and higher education in the Southeast.

The BellSouth Corporation, a holding company whose subsidiaries provide local telephone service in nine Southeastern states, established the education-oriented foundation last year.

The foundation has identified two initial priorities at the elementary and secondary levels: increasing the number and quality of teachers in the workforce, and motivating students to stay in school, particularly in the middle-school grades.

The foundation's first grants went to the Southeastern Council of the Holmes Group, the Southern Education Foundation, Tulane University, the University of Florida, the University of North Carolina's Center for Early Adolescence, and the University of South Carolina.

Concerned that almost half of all U.S. children are not getting enough exercise to develop healthy hearts and lungs, the American Academy of Pediatrics is calling for more physical education in the schools.

In a policy statement released this month, the aap notes that the growing emphasis on academics has forced some school districts to trim their physical-education programs. At the same time, children are leading increasingly sedentary lives, averaging 25 hours of television viewing each week.

To help children develop healthier habits, the group urges parents and physicians to press for better fitness programs in the schools. Children should also be encouraged to take up lifetime sports, such as swimming and tennis, the statement says.

The National Federation of State High School Associations has established a hot line for students, educators, and parents who have questions about drug- and alcohol-abuse prevention programs.

The toll-free number, which was scheduled to go into service Sept. 1, is (800) 366-6667.

A new computerized clearinghouse established by the federal Centers for Disease Control will gather and disseminate information on curricula, programs, school policies, and resource materials for teaching students about acquired immune deficiency syndrome.

The aids School Education Subfile is part of the cdc's Combined Health Information Database, a computer catalogue of health-education programs developed through the agency. Users can gain access to the system, for a fee, by writing BRS Information Technologies, 1200 Route 7, Latham, N.Y. 12110, or by calling (800) 345-4277.

The International Reading Association has called on the federal government to establish a national policy for combating adult illiteracy. Terming the current federal appropriation of $130 million for adult literacy programs inadequate, the group said in a statement that such a policy should involve greater cooperation between the 79 federally funded programs that have a literacy component, more training for potential reading teachers and volunteers, and more research on how adults learn to read.

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