the Kansas Board of Regents announced that they have
recruited former Kansas Education Commissioner Andy
Tompkins to be their new president and chief executive
officer in June.
my opinion, there could be no better candidate to lead
the KBOR for Kansas. Not only is all of public education
under tremendous economic stress, but university education
is facing serious academic threats.
headed the Kansas State Department of Education from
1996 to 2005, giving him a solid track record administering
our largest state agency and over half our state tax
dollars. And his working knowledge of K–12 education
policies provides him with a unique ability to help
the regents understand new challenges for integrating
K-12 and tertiary education policy.
has joined other states in efforts to extend student
record-keeping beyond high school graduation into the
university level. The intent is to feed information
back to high schools about the strengths and shortfalls
of their graduates and supposedly improve programs.
No one knows the privacy laws and logistical problems
better than Tompkins.
are coming from several sectors to water down or alter
the Kansas Qualified Admissions standards, the criteria
Kansas high school students must meet to enter regents
schools. Some want to dilute academics with job training.
Others use the current economic downturn to argue for
less rigorous coursework requirements. Nationwide, proposal
are afoot for 3-year high school diplomas and 3-year
college degrees. But the use of “food science” (home
economics) and “tech prep” (shop) as science credits
came to an end under Tompkins’ tenure as Commissioner.
He has a track record of recognizing and valuing academic
K–12 State Board of Education has long toyed with the
outcome-based philosophy of dismissing the Carnegie
Unit as “mere seat time,” although this remains the
unit for high school graduation. Universities use a
similar credit hour system and have shown no intention
of moving to any performance-based method of awarding
college credit, despite recent whining from virtual
colleges and tech schools that are barely coordinated
today under the regents, were more tightly governed
when they were under the KSBE.
university administrative experience will bring a seasoned
perspective to the current university challenges. The
public is frustrated with college tuition that rises
faster than health care costs. Many high school graduates
cannot do college work and require remedial courses.
Demands for higher retention drives grade inflation.
Coursework of questionable value—both face-to-face and
virtual, in-state and out-of-state—infringes on bonafide
programs and cheapens the value of degrees. “Accountability
measures” following in the footsteps of the notorious
No Child Left Behind threaten university academic integrity.
Pressure for “seamless articulation” could drive coursework
to the lowest common denominator.
course, final policy rests with the Boards themselves.
The Board of Regents is different from the Board of
Education. There are no monthly open public forums.
They get very narrow and pre-digested information from
the regents institution presidents, whom they treat
like business CEOs. In this atmosphere, the President
can have a key role of providing the academic context
of each issue and orchestrating for the public good
of Kansas. And Tompkins is no stranger to Topeka politics.
month, the State Board of Education canceled their search
and asked Interim Commissioner Diane Debaker to stay
on. And now the Board of Regents has selected Andy Tompkins
challenges to Kansas education have never been greater
than what we will face in these next several years.
Fortunately, Kansas will have the two most competent
leaders available serving in our top education positions.