Topeka — The Kansas House Education Committee approved a resolution Tuesday that generally supports a controversial new way of accrediting public schools but also gives suggestions to improve it.
The committee approved on a voice vote a Senate-passed resolution supporting "quality performance accreditation," or QPA.
The resolution, which was approved last week by the Senate 36-4, now goes to the full House. The resolution endorses the concept, but says the State Board of Education, which began implementing the standards in 1991, should rewrite them because they are confusing and vague.
Rep. Barbara Ballard, D-Lawrence, a member of the committee who voted for the resolution, urged other committee members to drop the shorthand reference "QPA" and refer to the accreditation process by its full name.
Ballard, a member of the Lawrence school board, told the committee that many people are confused about what the letters "QPA" mean. She said that is one reason behind public misunderstanding of the accreditation process.
"PEOPLE ARE always asking me what it stands for," she said. "People heard it and thought it was bad and they never really knew what it was. . . . People can understand it when you call it quality performance accreditation."
The accreditation process, which has been going on in Lawrence schools, rates schools on the basis of outcomes, rather than on the size of staff or the amount of facilities.
The resolution calls on the State Board of Education to rewrite the outcomes and put the greatest emphasis on the outcomes involving student academic achievement. It also calls for cleaning up some of the language in the 10 outcomes to make their meaning clearer.
The resolution calls for cutting the paperwork involved with QPA and providing more time for planning, evaluation and staff development.
The resolution also calls on the State Board of Education to assist school districts in informing the public about the new process.
BEFORE approving the resolution, the committee endorsed an amendment offered by Rep. Cindy Empson, R-Independence. Part of that amendment said that the outcomes are "not designed or intended to alter individual moral or religious beliefs."
The accreditation program has sparked opposition from conservatives and fundamentalist Christians, who believe it could lead to schools teaching values to children. In particular, they are worried schools will promote tolerance of homosexuals and non-Christian views.
Some conservatives also worried about wording that referred to getting students ready for "a global economy." Some thought that was an endorsement of one-world government.
Ballard said she thought the resolution helps to address the concerns of opponents.
"WE MADE IT very clear that we were supportive of quality performance accreditation," Ballard said. "It might have been a little hand-slapping of the board in that it may not have been presented to the public in the way it should have been. But we saw nothing wrong with it."
Rep. Ed McKechnie, D-Pittsburg, voted against the resolution. He said people who complain that QPA's goals are too vague simply could be searching for an excuse to oppose it.
Connie Hubbell, a member of the State Board of Education, said she thinks its members already have received the message contained in the resolution. She said the board plans to review its program and make changes if necessary.