Candidates' positions are categorized as Pro (Yes), Con (No), Not Clearly Pro or Con, or None Found. Candidates who have changed their positions are listed as Now their most recent position. Candidates are listed by party and in alphabetical order by last name. Black & white photos indicate candidates who have withdrawn or who no longer meet our criteria for inclusion.
Is the use of federally mandated standardized tests improving education in America?
Virgil Goode, former US Representative (R-VA), stated the following on his campaign website page "The Issues," available at www.goodeforpresident2012.com (accessed July 16, 2012):
"Washington should not be running our local school systems. We need to leave local education decisions to the states and localities. I am opposed to national testing of public school students..." July 16, 2012 Virgil Goode
[Editor's Note: In a May 14, 2012 email to ProCon.org, Virgil Goode stated "No" in response to our question "Is the use of federally mandated standardized tests improving education in America?"]
Barack Obama, 44th President of the United States, stated the following at a Mar. 28, 2011 public forum hosted by Univision, available at www.blogcea.org:
"We have piled on a lot of standardized tests on our kids. Now, there’s nothing wrong with a standardized test being given occasionally just to give a baseline of where kids are at…
Too often what we’ve been doing is using these tests to punish students or to, in some cases, punish schools. And so what we’ve said is let’s find a test that everybody agrees makes sense; let’s apply it in a less pressured-packed atmosphere; let’s figure out whether we have to do it every year or whether we can do it maybe every several years; and let’s make sure that that’s not the only way we’re judging whether a school is doing well…
So what I want to do is — one thing I never want to see happen is schools that are just teaching to the test. Because then you’re not learning about the world; you’re not learning about different cultures, you’re not learning about science, you’re not earning about math. All you’re learning about is how to fill out a little bubble on an exam and the little tricks that you need to do in order to take a test." Mar. 28, 2011 Barack Obama
Mitt Romney, former Governor of Massachusetts, stated the following during the Sep. 22, 2011 Fox News/Google Republican presidential debate held in Orlando, FL, available on FoxNews.com:
“We looked at what drives good education in our state, what we found is the best thing for education is great teachers, hire the very best and brightest to be teachers, pay them properly, make sure that you have school choice, test your kids to see if they are meeting the standards that need to be met, and make sure that you put the parents in charge.” Sep. 22, 2011 Mitt Romney
Jill Stein, MD, former Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, stated the following on Sep. 20, 2010, on her 2010 gubernatorial campaign website jillstein.org, on the page titled "Issues," available at www.web.archive.org:
"Standardized tests do not measure some of the most important goals of an educational system. And careful studies have shown that passing standardized tests does not translate into later academic success, much less success in life...
The goal of education should be to educate the whole student for lifelong learning and success. Educational programs need to be highly flexible in recognition that student skills, needs, and modes of learning vary widely. Forcing all students into a standardized track is harmful to many students. Challenged learners in particular are poorly served by a system that requires extensive drilling and rote memorization.
The current obsession with high stakes testing distracts from addressing the profound barriers to learning that arise long before the child has walked through the classroom door, including poverty and unemployment, poor health, poor nutrition and community violence." Sep. 20, 2010 Jill Stein
Michele Bachmann, US Representative (R-MN), stated the following during the Sep. 22, 2011 Republican presidential debate held in Orlando, FL, available at "Transcript: Fox News-Google GOP Debate" on www.foxnews.com:
"What I would do as president of the United States is pass the mother of all repeal bills on education. I would take the entire federal education law, repeal it. Then I would go over to the Department of Education, I'd turn off the lights, I would lock the door and I would send all the money back to the states and localities." Sep. 22, 2011 Michele Bachmann
Herman Cain, former Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City and Chairman of Godfather's Pizza, stated the following during the Aug. 11, 2011 Republican presidential candidate debate in Ames, IA, available at foxnewsinsider.com:
"I believe that the federal government should be out of the business of trying to micromanage the education of our children." Aug. 11, 2011 Herman Cain
Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the US House of Representatives, stated the following at a Sep. 30, 2011 campaign event in Iowa as reported by Jason Clayworth in an article titled "Eliminate Educational Curriculums, Gingrich Tells Iowans," published in the Des Moines Register on Sep. 30, 2011:
"I think the whole concept of a state or federal curriculum is profoundly wrong. If you bureaucratize the process, you bureaucratize the teacher, you make it all boring and it all becomes a matter of cheating. Because when you're studying for the test, you're not studying to learn, you're studying to get through some test and everybody knows it. So you gradually take life out of the system." Sep. 30, 2011 Newt Gingrich
Jon Huntsman, former Governor of Utah, stated the following during the Aug. 11, 2011 Republican presidential candidate debate in Ames, IA, available at www.foxnewsinsider.com:
"No Child Left Behind hasn‘t worked for this country. It ought to be done away with. We need to take education to the local level, where parents and local elected officials can determine the destiny of these schools. Nobody wants their schools to succeed more than local elected officials and their parents." Aug. 11, 2011 Jon Huntsman
[Editors Note: The Jan. 8, 2002 No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act instituted federally mandated standardized tests for public school students in all 50 states. The law mandated standardized testing in reading and math (and later science) in Grades 3 through 8 and again in 10th Grade. Since Jon Huntsman is clearly against NCLB, and advocates local, rather than federal, control of education, we have listed him as Con to our question.]
Ron Paul, US Representative (R-TX), stated the following in his 2011 book Liberty Defined: 50 Essential Issues That Affect Our Freedom:
"It's quite clear that there's no constitutional authority for the federal government to be involved in education... Ideally, education in a free society would be the responsibility of the parents or the individual or local community, not the government...
In the past sixty years especially, the federal government has become very much involved in financing and directing education at all levels. There is no evidence that quality of education has improved... there's definitely been more violence, more drugs, and more dropouts associated with more centralized control.
Most people today accept the idea that the Department of Education is a legitimate federal institution. Not too many years ago, however the Republican Party platform argued for getting rid of the Department of Education. This pretense was removed with the election of George W. Bush... With both Democratic and Republican support, he massively increased the Department of Education with the disastrous No Child Left Behind program. Now national control of all public schools is firmly a bipartisan effort... Once an institution is hooked on federal financing, it's virtually impossible to stop the bureaucratic regulations and mandates that routinely follow subsidies." 2011 Ron Paul
[Editors Note: The Jan. 8, 2002 No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act instituted federally mandated standardized tests for public school students in all 50 states. The law mandated standardized testing in reading and math (and later science) in Grades 3 through 8 and again in 10th Grade. Since Ron Paul is clearly against NCLB, and clearly wants the federal government out of education all together, we have listed him as Con to our question.]
Rick Perry, Governor of Texas, wrote the following in his 2010 bookFed Up!: Our Fight to Save America from Washington:
“The law requires states to follow a host of very specific federal requirements to conduct standardized tests, to put in place measures of performance, and to then take ‘corrective action’ if the standards are not met. Technically, NCLB does not force states to comply with these federal standards. Rather, just like the spending hook used to induce compliance for seat-belt and drinking-age laws, the federal government reaches into our pockets, takes out wads of tax dollars, and then says that we can have them back only if we comply with federal instructions…
The transition to the Obama administration has only made things worse, of course. For instance, provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act that I agree with include some limits to the role of the federal government in education. Specifically, NCLB restricts the federal government from enacting national curriculum standards, creating a national testing system, and establishing a national database with information about every student…. However, now the Department of Education is enacting the very things prohibited by NCLB by claiming it is doing so under the authority of the massive American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (stimulus bill).” 2010 Rick Perry
Rick Santorum, former US Senator (R-PA), stated the following in a Mar. 4, 2012 appearance on Fox Sunday News, available at foxnews.com:
“There were things in there [No Child Left Behind] I did like, which was the educational testing part of it and trying to get some determination about how our schools are performing. I think that was an important thing to do to get some sort of measurement…
Having the testing was very, very important, and in fact, the first part of that when it was implemented, what we did see is a lot of evidence that came out that our schools were failing, and I think that was an important thing to have accomplished…" Mar. 4, 2012 Rick Santorum