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Harvard Center Considers Action Reversing Public School Policies

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A group of Harvard professors and graduate students in the new Center for Law and Education are currently gathering information for possible law suits against school districts across the country which discriminate against minority group students.

David L. Kirp, Director of the Center, said that about a dozen people have been working for the center since it opened this summer. They are concentrating on three major controversies in elementary and high school education:

misallocation of state funds;

discrimnation in tracking systems;

slow decentralization of large school systems.

Harvard University and the Office of Economic Opportunity jointly established the Center, located on 24 Garden St., as one of several similar institutions around the country. Harvard finances approximately one-third of the project.

Kirp said yesterday that the Center researches the legal and educational as pecks of school problems, then plans to propose direct programs for possible reform.

The Center staff will also try to spread the results of its research as broadly as possible, Kirp said. A bulletin, "Inequality and Education," will be issued six times a year. It will be sent free to people directly involved in education, including community action programs and state and city school committees.

An example of the type of work being done, Kirp said, is the drafting of a model decentralization statute now going on, with specific recommendations for decentralizing the decision-making process in school boards. The group is concentrating its legal research on the current laws in New York City, Washington, D.C., Boston, and Detroit.

Another focus of the center will be the racial and class consequences of "tracking," grouping students early in their education. A pamphlet put out by the Center states that "there is some preliminary evidence that tracking, ability grouping, and even grading are strongly related to differences in race and social class." The legal implications of this are under consideration, Kirp said.

The Center is studying the problems theoretically, but is also examining tracking in particular shoots in Boston.

Kirp also said that work is being done with a group of community-organized and community-run schools in Boston to create "a minimum of outside harassment, and a maximum of financial and legal security." Lawsuits, legislation, and other actions are being contemplated.

Kirp emphasized that this is a national center, but said that Center researchers will do much of their work in Boston area schools. The Boston schools contain all of the problems under study, he said.

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