Robb, Allen Differ on Importance Given to Educational Standards

By Dinan, Stephen | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), April 25, 2000 | Go to article overview

Robb, Allen Differ on Importance Given to Educational Standards


Dinan, Stephen, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


With public school test scores on the rise nationwide under Republican governors like George W. Bush in Texas, Democrats have been scrambling to find an effective political counterattack.

The latest strategy calls for criticizing the tests as biased.

U.S. Rep. Robert C. Scott, Virginia Democrat, and Sen. Paul D. Wellstone, Minnesota Democrat, have introduced bills in Washington that would prohibit school systems or schools receiving federal funds - essentially every school - from promoting or graduating students based solely on standardized tests.

Critics like Mr. Scott and Mr. Wellstone say the back-to-basics tests are unfair and undermine the learning process.

But supporters of educational reform, like former Virginia Gov. George F. Allen, locked in a tough race for the U.S. Senate with incumbent Democrat Charles S. Robb, say standardized tests have paid big dividends in U.S. schools.

"Clearly my view is that I have high expectations for children, and you do have to measure how students are doing," Mr. Allen told The Washington Times.

Like Mr. Bush in Texas, Mr. Allen pushed hard for standardized testing in Virginia. While governor from 1993 to 1998, he turned the state's Standards of Learning from a list of general topics into a nationally emulated set of knowledge students must acquire. He also supported a program of testing to make sure students mastered the concepts before they graduated. The fact that Republicans like Mr. Allen and Mr. Bush are running on education as an issue should be a wake-up call to Democrats in Virginia and elsewhere, said Paul Goldman, a former state Democratic Party chairman and adviser to former Democratic Gov. L. Douglas Wilder.

He called education the old "go-to" for Democrats, and wondered, "If you can't beat a Republican on the education issue, how can you beat him?"

"If Democrats were down in the fourth quarter, Knute Rockne would look down the bench, point to education and say, `Get in there,' " Mr. Goldman said. "Now Democrats are looking down the bench, and it's not there."

He said some Democrats are attacking education reforms and standardized tests as "Trojan horses by people who want to gut public education."

Mr. Robb has said he supports standards, but said the tests alone are not the solution to the country's education woes.

"Obviously I support standards and accountability, but it ought to be accompanied by investment in education," Mr. …

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