Romney boasted that Massachusetts’ fourth and eighth graders tested first in the nation in reading and math after he became governor. But Massachusetts students had tested at the top or near it before Romney took office.
Obama countered that it was a policy put in place a decade earlier that caused the high scores. The state did pass a landmark 1993 law that emphasized testing and new curriculum, and increased school funding.
Romney: While I was governor, I was proud that our fourth graders came out number one of all 50 states in English and then also in math, and our eighth graders number one in English and also in math — first time one state had been number one in all four measures. How did we do that? Well, Republicans and Democrats came together on a bipartisan basis to put in place education that focused on having great teachers in the classroom. And that was —
Obama: Ten years earlier —
Romney: That was — that was what allowed us to become the number one state in the nation. And this is — and we were —
Obama: But that was 10 years before you took office.
Romney was governor of Massachusetts from January 2003 to January 2007. The 2003 test scores from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, known as “The Nation’s Report Card,” put Massachusetts students in first place for reading and math in fourth grade and reading in eighth grade. It was second for eighth grade math. And it tied with several other states in all categories. In 2005, eighth grade math scores moved up to first — and, as Romney said, the state was ranked first in all categories (tied with a few other states in the math categories).
The state’s 2002 reading scores and 2000 math scores were also at or near the top of the nation — and on par with several other states.
Romney said it was a “bipartisan” effort “that focused on having great teachers” that boosted test scores. But scores were already high in Massachusetts compared with other states.(And they’ve remained there since Romney left office.) Obama said it was an effort “10 years before you took office,” and there’s evidence for that. The Boston Globe said a 1993 education law “is largely credited” for the high scores.
The Christian Science Monitor also recently looked at Massachusetts’ success in education and pointed to the 1993 law that emphasized testing.
Christian Science Monitor, Sept. 5, 2012: Leaders from state government, education, and business came together to form the Massachusetts Education Reform Act of 1993, creating high standards and curriculum frameworks in math, reading, social studies, and science, as well as related tests for fourth-, eighth-, and 10th-graders – the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS).…
The emphasis on high-stakes testing led some teachers and parents to protest, worried that it would nudge borderline students into dropping out – a debate that later resonated nationally because of the testing regimen established by the federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.…
After the new system took hold, significant learning gains among Massachusetts students were reflected in both state and national tests.
Obama also claimed that Romney “cut education spending when you came into office.” That’s true, though it’s worth pointing out that the state faced a budget gap and the Democratic Legislature proposed cuts, too.