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$107 Million Over 5 Years Awarded to 7 Research Centers

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Washington

The Department of Education last week awarded five-year grants to seven new national education-research centers.

The awards, totaling $107 million over five years, all but complete an overhaul of the department's often-criticized research operations that began in 1994. As part of the plan, the number of national research centers was cut by almost half. The hope is that fewer but bigger centers will produce more credible, definitive studies.

The first-year grant awards ranged from $2.5 million to $3.9 million, and competition for them was brisk. With the exception of two of the centers, four to six groups bid on each contract.

The largest award went to the Center on Meeting the Educational Needs of a Diverse Population, based at the University of California at Santa Cruz. The university operated a federally funded cultural-diversity center from 1991 to last year, but the new agreement will quadruple its funding.

Roland Tharp, the center's director, said the university will collaborate with 19 other universities and research firms around the country, giving it a more extensive nationwide network.

"Now we have projects from Honolulu to Provincetown [Mass.], and from Alaska to Miami," Mr. Tharp said.

He said the center also plans to broaden its mission from a focus on students learning English as a second language to students who are considered to be educationally at risk for a range of reasons, including poverty, geographic isolation, race, and ethnicity. Studies will address, for example, Native American students, children living in rural Appalachia, and African-American students.

When federal officials proposed broad new priorities for the centers last year, critics complained that there were no plans for research that would address learning in traditional subject-matter areas. Previously, centers were set aside to study teaching and learning in science, mathematics, reading, writing, and literature. (See Education Week, Sept. 5, 1995.)

Subject Matter

Partly because of those concerns, the department awarded two grants to centers specializing in academic-content learning. The Center on Improving Student Learning and Achievement at the University of Wisconsin-Madison will focus on math and science education, while its companion center at the State University of New York at Albany specializes in English and language arts. Each center will receive $2.5 million in its first year of operation.

"When we got the proposals, people played to their strengths, and we got the most rigorous work in those fields," said Sharon P. Robinson, the assistant secretary for educational research and improvement.

The other centers announced last week are: the Center on Enhancing Young Children's Development and Learning, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; the Center on Improving Student Assessment and Educational Accountability, at the University of California at Los Angeles; the Center on Increasing the Effectiveness of State and Local Education Reform Efforts, at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia; and the Center on Improving Postsecondary Education, at Stanford University in Stanford, Calif.

A ninth center, focusing on adult literacy, will be announced later this year.

Delayed Funding

The grant for the first and largest federally financed education-research center--the Center for Research on the Education of Students Placed at Risk--was announced in 1994. Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and How-ard University in Washington received $4.7 million in fiscal 1995. The contract called for a total of $27.8 million over five years. (See Education Week, Sept. 14, 1994.)

Because Congress and President Clinton have not yet agreed on a federal budget for this fiscal year, which began Oct. 1, the new centers will not immediately get full funding.

Under the stopgap spending measure approved last month to keep the federal government running until March 15, the centers can only receive 32 percent of their authorized funding levels now. The uncertainty prompted some of the centers to put off starting their contracts until July.

"We have to be realistic, and they have to be realistic, to understand that in some ways the benefit of this work will not soon be forthcoming," Ms. Robinson said. "This puts everybody in a tenuous position."



National Education R&D Centers

The Department of Education has awarded five-year grants for the operation of research-and-development centers devoted to the following topics. The funding amounts are those anticipated for the first year.


Young Children's Development and Learning

Lead institution: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Funding: $2.8 million

The collaborating institutions are: University of Arkansas at Little Rock; University of Virginia, Charlottesville; University of California at Los Angeles.

Student Learning and Achievement

Lead institution: University of Wisconsin-Madison
Funding: $2.5 million

The collaborating institutions are: Technical Educational Research Center, Boston; Vanderbilt University/Peabody College, Nashville, Tenn.; University of Pittsburgh; University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth.

Lead institution: State University of New York at Albany
Funding: $2.5 million

The collaborating institutions are: University of Wisconsin-Madison; University of Washington, Seattle; University of Oklahoma, Norman.

Student Assessment and Educational Accountability

Lead institution: University of California at Los Angeles
Funding: $2.8 million

The collaborating institutions are: University of Colorado at Boulder; Stanford University, Stanford, Calif.; Learning Research and Development Center, University of Pittsburgh; RAND Corp., Santa Monica, Calif.; Educational Testing Service, Princeton, N.J.; Northwestern University, Evanston, Ill.; University of Michigan, Ann Arbor; University of California at Santa Barbara; University of Chicago; Los Angeles Unified School District; New Standards, National Center on Education and the Economy, Washington.

Meeting the Educational Needs of a Diverse Student Population

Lead institution: University of California at Santa Cruz
Funding: $3.9 million

The collaborating institutions are: Center for Applied Linguistics, Washington; University of Colorado at Boulder; Brown University, Providence, R.I.; George Mason University, Fairfax, Va.; University of Arizona, Tempe; California State University at Long Beach; California State University at San Jose; University of Hawaii; ARC Associates, Oakland, Calif.; Claremont Graduate School, Claremont, Calif.; RAND Corp., Santa Monica, Calif.; Technical Education Research Center, Boston; Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore; University of Houston; University of Louisville; Western Washington University, Bellingham; California State University at San Diego; University of Memphis; University of Southern California, Los Angeles.

Increasing the Effectiveness of State and Local Education-Reform Efforts

Lead institution: University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
Funding: $2.8 million

The collaborating institutions are: Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.; Stanford University, Stanford, Calif.; University of Michigan, Ann Arbor; University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Improving Postsecondary Education

Lead institution: Stanford University, Stanford, Calif.
Funding: $2.5 million

The collaborating institutions are: University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia; University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

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