Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Standardized Tests for All Elected Officials

Carl Gibson

Rahm Emanuel wants to cheapen education to make it conform to a standardized testing model. So how about we come up with standardized testing models to see how our do-nothing politicians measure up?

As long as do-nothing legislators demand teachers be held accountable to their approved version of a standardized test, all elected officials, from city council members and boards of selectmen, to mayors and state legislators, to members of the U.S. House and Senate and the presidency, should be held accountable to a citizen’s standardized test drafted by all of us. We’ll measure them on job growth, the rank of our education and healthcare systems, the ratio between rises in the cost of living as opposed to wage increases, the ratio between money spent on wars overseas as opposed to money spent on domestic services, the ratio spent on public school students as opposed to prisoners, CO2 emissions, air and water quality, taxes collected from those who owe, and job approval ratings, for starters.

According to the standardized test we just drafted, all members of Congress would immediately be ineligible for re-election, as they have held as low as a 9% approval rating in the last year, and job growth has slowed to a trickle largely due to Congress’ failure to act on job creation bills, like the American Jobs Act in Fall of 2011. And seeing as our Pentagon budget has surpassed $700 billion, which greatly outnumbers

the money spent by Uncle Sam on environmental protection, education and job training, Congress gets a big fat F in the spending category. They would also unequivocally fail in the CO2 emissions category in their failure to address climate change, deny a cap-and-trade program, and their continued push for the disastrous Keystone XL pipeline project.

Any state government that has ignored revising their tax code to crack down on individual and corporate tax dodgers in favor of cutting schools and other budgets across the board is thus failing in the categories of both job creation, tax collection, domestic spending, and education rankings. To really boost their grades, they would have to shift the tax burden from the poor and middle class to the wealthy, properly fund schools and public health programs, and allocating more dollars to public transportation to encourage hiring on things like rail projects. Environmental grades and job creation grades could boost as well by allocating money for making homes and buildings more energy-efficient.

If legislators wanted to boost their grades in CO2 emissions and water/air quality, they would have to cease fracking operations that pollute water supplies, coal mining practices that pollute the air, and replace those forms of energy with more sustainable means, like solar, wind, geothermal, and hydroelectric power. If state lawmakers want their job approval ratings to go up, they should see to it that more money is spent on students, and less on prisons. An easy way to manage that would be to decriminalize or legalize marijuana.

You know, this standardized testing thing for legislators seems like a great way for us to hold them accountable, and a great way for them to stay elected by making sure they pass the test. Just like we do with school students, we’ll administer the test each year. Except instead of giving the test in the Spring, we’ll give the test one week before election day. And any elected official that gets an F on the citizens’ standardized test shouldn’t be re-elected.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

Carl Gibson

Carl Gibson is a freelance journalist, columnist, and editor primarily covering political and economic news. His investigative reporting and opinion writing has appeared in CNN, The Guardian, The Washington Post, Barron's, MarketWatch, The Independent, The Houston Chronicle, and NPR, among others.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Citing Need for 'New, Inclusive Leadership,' Chuy García Files for Chicago Mayoral Race

"We have an opportunity to elect a trusted and experienced leader with a history of building coalitions and a vision for a brighter future for all Chicagoans," said the Democratic congressman.

Jessica Corbett ·


On Cyber Monday, Climate Activists Take Aim at Fashion Industry

"The fashion industry is one of the largest polluting industries globally. We can all do better, but it's on companies to make this industry better for workers, the planet, and consumers alike."

Jessica Corbett ·


Biden Accused of Selling Out Rail Workers by Urging Congress to Prevent Strike

"Biden is siding with corporate rail bosses over the rank-and-file workers who voted against this agreement," said one progressive commentator after the president urged lawmakers to take action to force through a deal without paid sick leave.

Brett Wilkins ·


Analysis Finds State Legislators Proposed 306 Bills Targeting Trans People in Past 2 Years

"Right-wing state lawmakers are obsessed with taking away the rights of trans people and we're obsessed with knocking them out of public office," said one rights group.

Julia Conley ·


Biden Mulls Sending Long-Range Missiles to Ukraine

While Ukrainians and supporters welcomed Boeing's proposal to arm Ukrainian forces with long-range precision-guided bombs, one anti-war voice accused the American military-industrial complex of "dictating the U.S. foreign policy and profiteering from wars."

Brett Wilkins ·

Common Dreams Logo