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Keith B. Geiger, president of the National Education Association, last week called the funding shortfall in federal education programs "nothing short of national child abuse."

According to the nea, $12 billion over current appropriation levels is needed to achieve the level of service the programs were intended to provide.

In a new report, the teachers' union tracks spending for 10 federal education programs, including services for handicapped and bilingual children and student aid for higher education.

The report documents a decline in federal support for education since 1980 and analyzes how much it would cost to meet the needs of all students eligible for the services cited in each state.

"Our national commitment to education is killing our children with kindness," Mr. Geiger said. "We have plenty of kind words for education in our new 'kinder and gentler America,' but little action to back up those words."

Copies of "Federal Education Funding: The Cost of Excellence," are available at no cost from nea Communications, 1201 16th St., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20036.

U.S. News & World Report is considering whether to include education schools in its annual rankings of "America's best graduate schools."

The ratings have proved to be as controversial as the magazine's annual rankings of "America's best colleges." On the eve of its March 10 issue ranking business, law, medicine, and engineering schools, four national organizations representing 175 accredited law schools issued a statement accusing U.S. News of using the ratings more to sell magazines than to inform the public. And some experts said they expect education-school rankings to generate similar controversy--or at least anxiety--within the teacher-preparation community.

Mel Elfin, the editor who oversees the "America's Best Colleges" series, said the feasibility of developing criteria for rating education schools is currently being discussed with academic deans and other experts in the field. A final decision is expected next month.

Preliminary findings from a study of Houston teachers suggest that beginning teachers who were licensed to teach through a state "alternative certification" program are having a harder time in the classroom than colleagues trained by more traditional methods.

The unpublished study by three University of Houston researchers, W. Robert Houston, Faith Marshall, and Teddy McDavid, is based on interviews with 231 new elementary-school teachers after two months on the job. The study sample included 69 regularly certified teachers and 162 teachers who had been licensed through the state's alternative-certification program, which allows professionals from other fields to become teachers without graduating from a formal teacher-training program.

Overwhelmingly, the researchers found, the alternatively certified teachers rated their on-the-job problems much worse than their regularly certified colleagues did. In particular, they reported greater difficulty in motivating students, managing time, coping with paperwork and school administration, and assigning grades.

"These teachers would've not had as much time in classrooms learning the culture of the classroom and looking at schools as teachers rather than as students," said Mr. Houston, who is a professor of education and associate dean for academic affairs at the university's school of education.

"They perceive they are having problems and I suspect they are," he added.

Studies in the natural sciences should be part of a strong liberal-arts preparation for all future science teachers, according to a report by the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

The report, released last week, was written in response to two 1986 education-reform reports that advocated abolishing the undergraduate education major for teachers and replacing it with undergraduate studies in the liberal arts. Both reports, the Carnegie Forum on Education and the Economy's "A Nation Prepared: Teachers for the 21st Century" and "Tomorrow's Teachers" by the Holmes Group, left open the question of what that new major would look like.

In its report, the aaas underscores the value of undergraduate education in the liberal arts for all Americans. For those who plan to teach science, it says, courses in the natural sciences should be an integral part of that preparation. And, the report recommends, elementary and secondary teachers who plan to specialize in the sciences should take such studies one step further: They should major in a natural science.

Copies of the report, "The Liberal Art of Science," are available for $12.95 from aaas Books, P.O. Box 753, Waldorf, MD 20604.

The South Carolina Board of Education has adopted a declaration of support for the state's teachers in response to a report on the CBS news program "60 Minutes" called "Teacher is a Cheater."

The program, broadcast this spring, explored accusations of widespread teacher misconduct in South Carolina and other states where the stakes riding on standardized-test scores have grown.--dv & ab

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