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Reports that textbook publishers elaborately entertained top-ranking state education officials have spurred the North Carolina Board of Education to adopt a tough conflict-of-interest policy.

The board acted Sept. 8 to bar its own members, the state superintendent, 1,000 education-agency employees, and members of the state textbook commission and all agency advisory commissions from accepting anything of value from companies that do business with the state.

The new policy, adopted for an initial 90-day trial period, carries no penalties, however.

The Raleigh News and Observer reported recently that textbook publishers have played host to various education officials and have paid thousands of dollars in honoraria to State Superintendent A. Craig Phillips. Officials have denied any improprieties.

Ten Maine schools have received state funding to "break the time barrier" by experimenting with flexible schedules and interdisciplinary study projects that do not fit within the traditional 45-minute class period.

By allowing students and teachers to design their own cross-disciplinary projects, which can be worked on for several hours at a time rather than in regular class periods, schools can "fix what kids are expected to know and have time be the variable instead of the other way around," said Deputy Commissioner of Education Richard H. Card.

The plans have received enthusiastic support from teachers, administrators, and students, who are working together to study and evaluate different possibilities, Mr. Card said.

California education officials are investigating about 20 schools that allegedly cheated on statewide tests.

The officials will expunge the scores of any guilty schools from statewide averages and bar them from statewide or national competitions. But local districts will be responsible for any disciplinary actions against teachers or administrators.

In the past year, state officials have taken several steps--for example, requiring proctors in every room in which tests are given--to "lessen the temptation" for cheating, according to a spokesman for the department of education.

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