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The Education Department last week published priorities for five new research-and-development centers.

The priorities are part of a continuing effort to revamp the agency's research operationsby grouping research programs under mission-centered institutes much like those that make up the National Institutes of Health. The centers will, for the most part, operate under those institute umbrellas.

The department has already awarded a contract for one new center, the Center for Research on the Education of Students Placed At-Risk, which went last year to Johns Hopkins and Howard universities.

An April 10 Federal Register notice said priority in the upcoming competitions will be given to proposals that address these issues: promoting the social, emotional, and cognitive development of young children; improving student assessment; improving student learning and achievement; teaching diverse student populations; making state and local reform efforts more effective; improving adult learning; and improving postsecondary education and work-preparation programs.

In addition to the new centers, the department will continue to pay for centers on reading research and on gifted and talented children.

Public comments on the priorities are due May 25.

Student Privacy: The House this month passed a bill that would prohibit the federal government from surveying minors on such matters as their political views, sexual practices, and religious beliefs without written parental consent.

The measure would not apply to academic testing unless questions would force minors to reveal personal information.

HR 1217, a part of House Republicans' "Contract With America," was approved by a vote of 418 to 7.

Rep. Mark E. Souder, R-Ind., said the legislation "will finally give parents and children the legal cover that has been theirs from the beginning."

But Gerald E. Sroufe, the director of government and professional liaison for the American Educational Research Association, said federal surveys are already conducted under such restrictions."In general, there is a major problem, but it's not at the federal level," Mr. Sroufe said.

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