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Drug-education curricula used by many schools fail to give students a "clear, consistent" message about the dangers of the use of illegal drugs, alcohol, and tobacco, according to a U.S. Education Department report released last week.

While not mandating a national anti-drug curriculum, the report provides recommendations on the essential elements of substance-abuse programs at all school levels.

The report is sharply critical of some current drug curricula, which, it says, advocate "responsible use" of drugs. "Such curricula tend to foster a belief that some illicit drugs, especially marijuana, are not particularly harmful if used in moderation," it argues.

The report also suggests that schools stop using former addicts--particularly sports and media celebrities--to lecture students on the evils of drugs. "While the power of confession may impress adults," it maintains, "children often get a different message--that the speaker used drugs for a time and survived, or even became wealthy and famous.''

Copies of the report, "Drug Prevention Curricula," can be ordered by calling 1-800-424-1616.

State professional-development programs for principals vary widely in design, funding, and quality, according to a report by the Council for Basic Education.

The report examines "principal acade6mies" and "leadership institutes" in California, North Carolina, and West Virginia. The centers seek to strengthen principals' performance as instructional leaders, it notes, by providing them with an opportunity to reflect on their responsibilities and interact with their peers.

The report gives high marks to California's programs and found those of West Virginia to be satisfactory. But it criticized North Carolina's Leadership Institute for Principals for failing to provide "a coherent vision and mission."

Copies of the report, "Beyond Management: Improving Principals' Instructional Leadership," are available for $9 each from the Council for Basic Education, 725 15th St., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20005.

A 1985 federal report on the teaching of reading offered a number of mistaken ideas, some of them politically motivated, for correcting the persistent reading problems of U.S. students, according to a new report from the National Council of Teachers of English.

Authors of essays presented in the document attack the Education Department's"Becoming a Nation of Readers" for promoting "incredibly naive" ideas about the realities of the classroom and of the interaction between parent and child. School systems that adopt such ideas, they argue, may continue to rely on ineffective reading programs.

The ncte writers also fault the federal report for ignoring the obstacles to reading faced by children from minority families.

Copies of the study, "Counterpoint and Beyond: A Response to 'Becoming a Nation of Readers,"' are available for $6.25 each from the National Council of Teachers of English, 1111 Kenyon Road, Urbana, Ill. 61801.

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