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Kan. Governor Vetoes State System of Basic-Skills Testing

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Gov. Joan Finney of Kansas has vetoed a measure that would have established a statewide system of basic-skills testing.

In rejecting the bill last month, the Democratic Governor argued that the state's recently adopted accreditation system, known as Quality Performance Accreditation, makes such tests outmoded and redundant.

The testing measure was included in a comprehensive education-reform package developed by the Republican majority in the legislature. G.O.P. leaders have vowed to overturn the veto.

Backers of the vetoed bill contend that the Q.P.A., which has faced considerable criticism in the state, would not measure the same skills.

Under the provisions of the vetoed measure, the state board of education would have been required to test students in grades 10, 11, and 12 for competence in such areas as mathematics and reading.

Schools would have awarded certificates to students who successfully mastered the skills test.

In her veto message, Ms. Finney argued that implementing a two-tiered system of exams would be both expensive and inefficient.

"I have concerns about the potential expenditures involved and the non-justifiable expansion of bureaucracy,'' the Governor said.

Basic-skills tests were popular during the early days of the education-reform movement in the 1980's, as lawmakers searched for ways to improve educational accountability. But more recently they have been criticized as narrowly focused and poor indicators of student ability.

New System Controversial

The Q.P.A. system, by contrast, provides for an elaborate system of standards designed by the state board of education to evaluate the performance of individual schools on 10 learning outcomes.

The program was passed by the legislature last year as part of a radical reworking of the state school-finance system. (See Education Week, Feb. 10, 1993.)

Since then, the Q.P.A. has come under fire from a number of local groups, who argue that it attempts to measure such intangibles as student attitudes and beliefs. But supporters of the program contend that it will allow schools to move independently toward the educational outcomes established by the state board.

Although legislators allowed the Q.P.A. to stand as approved by the state board, the controversy over the new assessment system generated an unprecedented number of hearings during the opening days of this year's session.

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