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Grants for Curriculum Centers Set

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Washington--Federal officials have announced the award of $6.9- million in grants for the establishment of four new research centers focusing on instruction in specific academic subjects.

At a joint news conference last week, officials of the Education Department and the National Endowment for the Arts said they will provide about $2.4 million to the New York University and the University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign over the next three years to jointly operate an arts-education research center and $1.5 million to the State University of New York at Albany for a three-year grant to operate a center on the teaching of literature.

Education Department officials also announced the award of a three-year, $1.5-million grant to the University of Wisconsin for a center on mathematics teaching and a five-year grant for the same amount to Michigan State University in East Lansing to operate a center to study elementary-school curricula.

The elementary-school center is expected to coordinate its efforts and share its findings with the other centers, which will focus mainly on secondary-school curricula.

The new units represent a departure from the agency's existing 12 research centers, which traditionally have examined broad educational topics and practices.

By zeroing in on specific subjects, the new centers "attest to our belief that we cannot produce a quality education as a whole unless we improve core elements," said Chester E. Finn Jr., the department's assistant secretary for educational research and improvement.

Frank Hodsoll, chairman of the arts endowment, said the centers on literature and art education are part of a broader effort by the endowment to encourage state and local school officials to make the arts "a basic and sequential part of education."

Courses in the arts must be subject to the same kinds of standards, testing, and content scrutiny as other elements of the curriculum "if arts education is to be meaningful," he said.

Mr. Hodsoll stressed, however, that such standards must be set at the local level and that it could take years or decades before the research conducted by the new centers is fully assimilated into the nation's classrooms.

"We're going to have our work cut out for us diffusing the results of the research into educational practice," agreed Mr. Finn.

Faculty and research assistants at the University of Illinois division of the art-education center will conduct 11 projects to produce "baseline data" and analysis on how various art disciplines are taught. The New York University branch will direct up to 30 teachers, who will work under the guidance of university faculty and art professionals to analyze the way the arts are taught in their schools and explore methods to improve instruction. The literature center will survey the books, objectives, and testing methods used in secondary-school literature curricula. The mathematics center will study the full range of math skills taught in the nation's schools, with an emphasis on arithmetic, algebra, geometry, and rational numbers in the middle and high-school grades.

The elementary-school center, whose agenda is broader than those of the other centers, will focus on mathematics, science, history, geography, civics, literature, and the arts in kindergarten through 6th grade.

The Education Department is expected to announce the award of another research center focusing on science instruction in the next few weeks. The National Endowment for the Humanities recently announced plans for its own research center on the teaching of history. (See Education Week, Oct. 7, 1987.)

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