Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan Differ On Standardized Testing In Schools

Romney, Ryan Differ On Key Education Elements

In roundtables with teachers and visits to classrooms, President Barack Obama is continuing to attack the GOP ticket on education this week, from Mitt Romney's record to the snip-happy budget of vice presidential pick Paul Ryan.

Obama for America released an advertisement that is playing in Ohio and Virginia on Thursday, asserting that Romney "cannot relate" to public school issues, such as the need for smaller class sizes. The video also criticizes "teaching to some test," referring to an oft-repeated criticism of the No Child Left Behind law, which ties school funding to standardized test scores.

The Romney campaign quickly shot back with a statement calling the education ad one of several "misleading and hypocritical attacks." While Romney's statement responded to the ad -- such as Obama's references to Ryan's cuts and class size -- Romney is, in fact, a big proponent of standardized testing. "I like testing in our schools," Romney said in a 2007 debate. "I think it allows us to get better schools, better teachers."

But in an August 2007 joint interview with Children's Pressline, a news wire for student journalists, Rep. Ryan (R-Wis.) expressed opposition. "I have one big criticism about No Child Left Behind. That's the testing component," Ryan said.

Ryan continued that he specifically didn't vote for the testing mandates of NCLB, which requires annual standardized testing in reading and math. "I voted actually against the testing," he said. "The amendment that I supported to take the testing component out of No Child Left Behind was defeated, so we lost our amendment."

Romney is also a proponent of something known as the Common Core State Standards, a national set of curriculum goals in reading and math that the Obama administration has promoted, and that most states have agreed to adopt.

But this, too, would seem to contradict with Ryan's view. "My concern with the testing is that it moves toward a nationalized curriculum," Ryan said in the 2007 interview.

Rod Paige, the former education secretary who was also part of the 2007 Children's Pressline interview, defended testing, saying, if "you find a place where they're not testing kids that means they don't love them quite as much." Paige now serves as one of Romney's education advisors.

Since being picked as Romney's running mate, Ryan has not further fleshed out his education views, and the Romney campaign did not respond to requests for comment. Of course, Romney and Ryan do agree on some things within education: support for vouchers, which allow families to use public money for private schools, and an overall view on spending.

"Stagnant student achievement levels and exploding deficits have demonstrated that massive amounts of federal funding and top-town interventions are not the way to provide America's students with a high-quality education," Ryan's website states.

But a group of "education insiders," say that the Ryan pick actually isn't that significant for education, according to a new survey released Wednesday by education consulting group Whiteboard Advisors.

According to the survey, 54 percent of insiders indicated the pick was insignificant, versus 29 percent who thought the development was important for education. "Outside of the implication of spending cuts to education, I have never seen Paul Ryan actively engaged in education," one wrote. "My sense is he would support moving even more decision-making to states, with even less role for the federal government."

"Education is not Paul Ryan's thing," another wrote.

Whiteboard Advisors, which specializes in school policy, sends surveys about once a month to 50 to 75 anonymous political and policy "insiders," including current and former senior staff from the U.S. Department of Education, White House, Congress and think tanks. Whiteboard only recently began making portions of its surveys public.

Some predicted that Ryan would focus on changes to Pell grants, school vouchers and local control of schools, and that his election as vice president would "be a bad thing for funding levels" of college financial aid.

Additionally, the PDK/Gallup education poll, released Wednesday, found that Romney trails Obama on education by a small margin of five percentage points, but that Romney actually has a small lead on Obama among independent voters.

Jason Cherkis contributed reporting.

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