Democrats express criticism of standardized testing

Three Democratic candidates for Texas governor told their audience of about 50 people on campus Wednesday that schoolchildren should not be forced into a mold, with two of them expressing criticism about standardized testing.

Candidate Tom Schieffer, Hank Gilbert and Felix Alvarado met in the first Gubernatorial Candidates Forum of the 2010 election at the Brown-Lupton University Union ballroom. The event was sponsored by the TCU Democrats and the Tarrant County Young Democrats, and was moderated by political science professor Jim Riddlesperger.

Gilbert, a rancher and former schoolteacher, said he would eliminate the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) test and push for an emphasis on vocational and technical training in high schools. The majority of jobs require this type of training and not a college degree, he said.

Schieffer, a lawyer and U.S. ambassador to Japan, stressed the importance of getting children into a learning environment at an earlier age and stopping attempts to make children fit into the current education system. A teacher should have the mentality that he or she is teaching to 10 classes of one, not one class of 10, he said, noting individual students’ unique needs.

Alvarado, an Air Force veteran, said standardized testing in schools is a minimal standard and is not predictive of success in college. Schools must prepare high school graduates for an ever-changing economy, he said.

Both Gilbert and Schieffer said they oppose the deregulation of university tuition, which has caused an increase in the cost of college attendance in previous years. Governor candidate Kinky Friedman, who was not present, wrote in a statement that he also supported the regulation of college costs and the termination of the TAKS test.

All three candidates present said they opposed legislation that would legalize concealed weapons on college campuses.

Candidates also agreed that exploring renewable energy sources would be beneficial to the state and would create jobs.

Gilbert said he has created a policy that would call for an 80 percent reduction in mercury transmissions from concrete facilities, a mandatory carbon capture on existing coal plants and a moratorium on any new plants that can’t meet these standards. He also said the state needs to expand mass transit and inter-city rail systems.

Schieffer said the implementation of smart meters that would allow residents to use electricity in non-peak hours would help lower household electricity costs and add capacity to the electrical grid, reducing the need to build new power plants. He said diversifying the state’s dependence on fossil fuels was important.

Alvarado said the state could cut energy costs by creating new energy sources.

Friedman wrote in his statement that he supported the use of renewable energy sources.

Before the governor candidates took the stage, four candidates for various offices gave brief speeches. The candidates were as follows:

Barbara Ann Radnofsky, candidate for Texas attorney general

 Said she would address issues related to taxes, electricity and insurance rates

Marc Katz – candidate for Texas lieutenant governor

 Said health reform was a top priority

Bill Burton – candidate for Texas land commissioner

 Said it was important to get more money for public schools

Jeff Weems – candidate for Texas railroad commissioner

 Said he knows the business well and what’s done right and wrong in the current system