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Federal programs are not aiding education reform efforts at the state and local level, and are even hindering them in some respects, lawmakers were told last week as hearings began on reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

In two days of hearings before the House Elementary, Secondary, and Vocational Education Subcommittee, educators, researchers, and state officials called for improved coordination of federal programs and greater flexibility at the local level in using federal dollars.

"The federal structure was never crafted to foster high-performance change,'' said Michael W. Kirst, a professor of education at Stanford University.

Mr. Kirst and others said federal programs, which are generally aimed at helping specific disadvantaged populations, conflict with the reform movement's emphasis on systemic reform and higher standards. The remedial nature of many federal programs encourage the teaching and testing of low-level skills, not the higher-order skills emphasized by reformers, and clash with efforts to develop national standards, witnesses said.

Susan H. Fuhrman, the director of the Consortium for Policy Research in Education at Rutgers University, suggested that categorical programs can be retooled to give educators more flexibility without "dismantling a structure that serves to identify important priorities.''

Many witnesses also advocated programs that foster the coordination of social services and education programs for needy students.

Rep. Dale E. Kildee, D-Mich., who chairs the subcommittee, said the pending reauthorization will be "one of the most exciting since the act's original authorization in 1965.''

The Senate has confirmed the appointment of John H. Gibbons, the head of the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment, as President Clinton's science and technology adviser.

Mr. Gibbons, 64, will succeed D. Allan Bromley, a Bush appointee, as head of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, which advises the President on such policy issues as federal support for science education.

During Mr. Gibbons' 13-year tenure at the ï.ô.á, the agency released two major reports that focused on the application of new technologies to precollegiate education.

"Power On!: New Tools for Teaching and Learning'' dealt with the use of microcomputers in K-12 classrooms, while "Linking for Learning'' discussed the growing phenomenon of distance-learning by satellite, cable television, and other methods.

The Education Department's office of research is seeking comments on research needed to improve the education of students at risk of school failure.

In a notice in the Jan. 27 Federal Register, the office announced that it is asking researchers, practitioners, and policymakers to identify problems that might be addressed by new research and to suggest new research methods.

The comments will be used to plan grant competitions, according to the notice, possibly including one for a research center on educationally at-risk students.

Comments are due by March 1.

Vol. 12, Issue 20

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