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Nearly two years after it sparked an uproar in education circles, an education report written by analysts at Sandia National Laboratories is finally about to be published, in the May/June issue of The Journal of Educational Research.

The Sandia analysts concluded that experts bemoaning a decline in U.S. education both overstate and misstate the real problem, which they said was concentrated in particular areas.

When they began circulating the report in 1991, it was angrily disputed by Bush Administration officials, who argued that there is a systemic crisis. Critics said the Administration was suppressing the report because it conflicted with its rhetoric; Energy Department officials said it was undergoing peer review.

A second round of reviews was completed last summer, but the report remained in limbo.

A news release announcing the report's publication calls it "a classic fugitive document.''

The education journal began talks with one of the analysts in early 1992, but he repeatedly said that they could not get permission to publish.

Last November, he told the journal that they were finally ready. In January, permission was formally granted in a letter to Lee Bray, the lab's executive vice president, from Richard Stephens, associate director of the Energy Department's office of university and science education.

Perhaps coincidentally, George Bush was defeated by Bill Clinton in November, and President Clinton took office in January. The report's supporters contend that this proves the only thing preventing publication was the Bush Administration's ideological objections.

Mr. Stephens said he decided that the authors had revised the report as much as they could be persuaded to, and that further review would be pointless. He also said the agency wanted to put the controversy behind it.

"It is time to get it out and let the scholars debate it,'' he said.

"It became clear to management that the reviews weren't going to achieve any consensus,'' agreed Al Stotts, a Sandia spokesman.

Mr. Stephens contended that the report would have been published even if Mr. Bush had won the election. But he conceded that the change in Administrations meant that responsibility for the decision moved from Republican political appointees to his office.

And he admitted that he had not seen the final version and did not know whether the authors had responded to review comments.


The Wall Street Journal reported last week that Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley had been a candidate for the upcoming vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Kathryn Kahler, Mr. Riley's spokeswoman, said he would not comment.--J.M.

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