State Journal: Windmill tilting; Education speak

December 16, 1992 2 min read

Two outspoken members of state boards of education who are retiring this month have left behind thoughtful valedictories on the prospects for change in education.

The bleaker view was offered by John F. Mannix, who served for a decade on the Connecticut board, most recently as its chairman.

Mr. Mannix was a vocal critic of racial segregation and spending disparities in schools who frequently clashed with state officials over the pace of efforts to reduce inequalities.

In a recent interview with a local reporter, Mr. Mannix expressed discouragement over the lack of progress.

“My objectives were to provide equal educational opportunities for youngsters in the inner city, and I haven’t done it,’' he said. “I have failed, and it saddens me. Maybe somebody else can do it.’'

A more hopeful perspective, but no less at odds with the status quo, came from Doug Wallace, who is stepping down after eight years on the Minnesota board.

Two years ago, Mr. Wallace proposed a radical plan for “educational perestroika’’ that, among other ideas, called for abolition of school districts.

Mr. Wallace recently expanded his proposal into a comprehensive vision for changing the way schools are organized and governed.

His plan would do away with school districts, the state education department, and the state board, and provide 100 percent state funding of education. The state’s experiment with charter schools would be expanded to all schools, which would be regulated only on the basis of student achievement, safety, and racial balance.

“On those days when it feels like you’re tilting at windmills,’' Mr. Wallace urges his board colleagues, “stay with it.’'

The Kansas Association of School Boards has published a guide to “education speak’’ for educators and others puzzled by the complex terminology of the state’s new school-reform law.

The booklet is based on association pamphlets that explain in “plain English’’ such terms as “outcome-based accreditation’’ and “integrated curricula.’'

The new guide explains, for example, that the cryptic initials “Q.P.A.’' stand for Quality Performance Accreditation--a new system under which the state board of education has established 10 outcomes that local districts must achieve.

John Koepke, the association’s president, is convinced that the new document is needed.

“Some of this terminology confuses educators,’' he told reporters. “I have a master’s degree in school administration, and I have to have that glossary to help me get through some of these things.’'H.D. & P.W.

A version of this article appeared in the December 16, 1992 edition of Education Week as State Journal: Windmill tilting; Education speak