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Consortium Wrests Reading Center From Illinois

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WASHINGTON--A consortium of universities has wrested the federal research center on reading away from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, which has operated it for the past 15 years.

Ending what is expected to be the only federal research-center competition this year, the Education Department this month awarded a five-year, $7.7-million grant to run the National Reading Research Center to the University of Georgia at Athens and the University of Maryland at College Park.

The new center is expected to provide an approach to the study of reading different from that of the Illinois center, which has been highly regarded, said Richard Long, the Washington director of the International Reading Association.

"There was a general sense that Illinois had done an extraordinary job, but had it for so many years,'' he said. "It was time for another line of inquiry to be done.''

John T. Guthrie, a professor of human development at Maryland and co-director of the center, explained that the consortium proposed a broader perspective on reading that includes motivational and social factors as well as cognitive processes.

Specifically, said James F. Baumann, the head of the department of reading education at Georgia and the associate director of the new center, the researchers will conduct a wide range of studies on instruction, learning, assessment, and teacher development, and will pay particular attention to school-based research.

In addition to enlisting teachers as co-investigators and principal investigators, he said, the group will set up permanent research sites in schools.

Richard C. Anderson, the director of the Illinois center, said he was disappointed that his team would lose the center, and added that the group had proposed an ambitious agenda that included developing a means to teach every teenager to read.

"At this point,'' he said, "there's nothing for me to do but hope [the new grantees] do a good job.''--R.R.

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