DeBacker will be missed

Education leader has served with distinction

By The Mercury

The resignation of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius understandably garners most of the attention, but the state is losing the services of another capable woman.

We’re referring to Diane DeBacker, a career teacher and education administrator who on Wednesday announced her resignation effective May 14 as commissioner of education. She is leaving to become an adviser to the director general of the Abu Dhabi Education Council.  Said Ms. DeBacker: “It is an education system that is in the middle of reform. What a wonderful opportunity to be able to take what we’ve done in Kansas” and try to apply it to their system.

She’s done quite a bit since being named acting commissioner in 2009 and then being promoted to the top position the next year. Her signature achievement has been to oversee the adoption of Common Core, the education standards that Kansas educators helped develop. The English and mathematics standards, adopted as well by most other states, are intended to strengthen student learning. Unfortunately, they’ve become almost universally opposed by conservatives in Kansas and elsewhere.

Ms. DeBacker’s tenure hasn’t been without glitches. Computer woes this spring have interfered with annual testing. On the plus side, resolving issues with this year’s pilot program can help the state meet next year’s federal deadline.

Conservatives may object to Common Core, but at least on the Kansas Board of Education, Republicans appropriately joined Democrats in praising Ms. DeBacker’s leadership. Kansas’ loss will be Abu Dhabi’s gain.

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