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The California Board of Education has voted to postpone for one month a decision on whether to accept controversial recommendations for adopting new elementary-level English and language-arts textbooks.

The 6-to-5 vote represents a setback for local school officials, publishers, and Superintendent of Public Instruction Bill Honig, who had heavily lobbied the board to adopt the recommendations immediately, in order to enable schools to begin to train teachers in the books' methods.

But a slim majority of the board members--including a high-school student, Maryela Martinez, who was casting her first vote as a member of the panel--resisted their entreaties.

"We should not have a rush to judgment," said Francis Laufenberg, the board's president.

'Real Literature'

Mr. Honig has argued that the proposals, which were submitted to the board this month by the state's curriculum-development and supplementary-materials commission, would allow schools to substitute "real literature" for the step-by-step skill development and drills that characterize much reading instruction.

If approved, the proposals are expected to affect the content of basal readers nationwide due to California's huge share of the textbook market. (See Education Week, Sept. 14, 1988.)

The panel urged the board to adopt 23 English and language-arts textbooks, but not to adopt any spelling books or supplementary materials.

Some 30 witnesses testified dur4ing the board's meeting, including experts who argued that the board should adopt some programs that the commission had rejected.

One witness, Richard C. Anderson, director of the center for the study of reading at the University of Illinois, told the board that the textbook-evaluation process was "deeply flawed."

"It seems," Mr. Anderson said, "to have produced a recommendation to adopt some programs, and reject others, that is inconsistent with California's own framework," which sets standards for textbook adoption.

Board members argued that they needed time to analyze the commission's recommendations in light of such testimony, according to Mr. Laufenberg.

"We shouldn't have a public hearing one day and adopt the next day,'' he said.

But Perry H. Dyke, a board member from Redlands who voted to adopt the books immediately, noted that the issues before the board were the same as those confronted by the curriculum commission.

But she added that the one-month delay was unlikely to cause any "serious disruption" in districts' plans to begin using the new materials.

"I don't think 30 days is going to make much difference one way or another," she said.--rr

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