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Education Department officials found themselves in a quandary last week over the release of data that for the first time demonstrated a link between education and workplace productivity. (See related story .)

On one side were department researchers, who were among a small group close to the study that selectively leaked the information to The New York Times, reasoning that a high-profile article would maximize the data's impact.

(See educational research and improvement, said researchers with the National Center on the Educational Quality of the Workforce, which performed the study under contract to the department, provided the data to a Times reporter prior to its public release last week.

Ms. Stacey said she supported the decision, but added that she urged department officials not to trumpet the findings for political gain.

Indeed, the public release of the data was to come at a low-profile, regularly scheduled public-policy briefing--the latest in a series on the five-year study. The Times story appeared on Sunday, May 14, one day before the briefing.

But other officials recognized that the data supported the Clinton Administration's emphasis on education and training as the foundation of its economic agenda.

Moreover, the data were scheduled for public release during a week when that issue was to take center stage. President Clinton visited a training program to highlight the School-to-Work Opportunities Act, while lawmakers debated changes to federal vocational-education and job-training programs as well as budget cuts that would significantly affect those programs.

So a statement from Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley was issued before the appearance of the Times article.

And at the briefing, Sharon P. Robinson, the assistant secretary for educational research and improvement, emphasized that the novel findings demonstrated the need for "a federal [research-and-development] agenda."

Meanwhile, public-affairs officials were caught in the middle. They had raised the ire of journalists earlier this year when the first part of the study was given exclusively to the Times. This time, they were faced with informing reporters on a Friday afternoon about a Monday-morning briefing.

--Mark Pitsch

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