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The U.S. Department of Education has awarded the Graduate School of Education two five-year grants worth more than $16 million to research adult literacy and the educational quality of the American workforce. The grants are the largest ever received by the school. Milton Goldberg, director of the Department of Education's office of research, said the grants are part of a $150 million program to study American education and suggest ways to solve the system's biggest problems. Two of 18 research centers established across the country by the program will be under GSE auspices. "It's a considerable honor for a university to win two centers," Goldberg said. "What's remarkable is that the panels that reviewed the proposals in these two competitions were totally independent of one another." Approximately $6.5 million will go to establish a National Education Research Center for research to improve the educational level of workers. The second grant, for $10 million, will be used to set up the National Center For Adult Literacy. Education Dean Marvin Lazerson said yesterday that he was so thrilled with the grants that "estatic would be an understatement." Although the Department of Education has approved the grants for the University, Congress must still appropriate the money. Goldberg said he was "optimistic" that Congress will do so. "The general view across the country and in Congress is that these are important issues and they need to be addressed," Goldberg said. But Lazerson warned that if there is no federal budget agreement this year, the Gramm-Rudman deficit reduction law will "have a disastrous effect on the grant." Education Professor Bob Zemsky will direct the National Education Research Center. Zemsky was unavailable for comment yesterday, but Lazerson said the center will focus on four broad questions: · What education will people need to be productive members of the workforce in the next century? · How should business guage the costs and benefits of workforce training? · How does education fit into career changes and changes in the general business enviornment? · What kind of skills are best taught in schools, and what kind are best taught on the job? Faculty from the School of Arts and Sciences and the Wharton School, including Assistant Management Professor Peter Cappelli -- who helped to write the grant proposal -- will conduct the research. The work will be supported by faculty from the Cornell University Center for Advanced Human Resource Studies. Faculty at the National Center For Adult Literacy will study the most effective ways to teach reading and writing to adults. Researchers will also try to find ways to increase participation in adult literacy programs and will make policy reccomendations, Lazerson said. A similar adult literacy research center at Columbia University was funded by the federal government for the last five years. "They applied [for the new grant], but lost," Lazerson said. Education Professor Dan Wagner will serve as the director of the University's center, and Assistant Education Professor Vivian Gadsden will be the assistant director, Lazerson said. Gadsden and Wagner were attending an international conference on adult literacy hosted by the University and were unavailable for comment yesterday. Lazerson said the grant money cannot be used to hire new faculty, but added that top-notch scholars will visit the University to take advantage of the resources. He said the centers will hire several new staff members and will provide challenging research opportunities for graduate students.

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