About 300 teachers in Buffalo, N.Y., have signed a petition calling for an immediate end to the district’s social studies and science tests in grades 4 and 8, saying that excessive testing is “causing great harm to our students.”
Philip Rumore, the president of the Buffalo Teachers Federation, which is organizing the protest, predicted that most of the district’s 4th and 8th grade teachers would sign petitions calling for a halt to the tests, which are scheduled to be given this month. In addition to the citywide tests, 4th and 8th graders in Buffalo take state tests in English and mathematics and a national standardized exam.
“We’re spending so much time teaching to the tests and testing our kids that we’re not even covering the subject matter that we’re testing them on,” Mr. Rumore charged.
Constance M. Moss, the assistant superintendent for standards and teaching effectiveness, said the system already has cancelled the city’s math and English tests in grade 4 and the social studies test in grade 8, but will go ahead with the science tests this school year. The district plans to further reduce testing time next school year, she said. Union officials are hoping that parents will refuse to allow their children to take the exams.
Meanwhile, more than 500 people around the country have signed a national online petition against high-stakes testing.
The “Rouge Forum Petition on the Big Tests” advocates popular resistance to such tests as the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills and the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System through “teach-ins, job actions, and boycotts—and creative civil strife such as theater, art, songs, demonstrations, sit-ins, and other methods to inform, unleash creativity, and resist.”
The petition was organized by the Rouge Forum, a group of educators, students, and parents that seeks to promote teaching for a democratic society. Among those signing the petition are Susan Ohanian, the author of One Size Fits Few: The Folly of Educational Standards, and George Schmidt, a former Chicago teacher and editor of Substance who has challenged standardized testing in that city.
Among other objections, the petition argues that such tests deepen the segregation of children within and between school systems, and pit students against students and teachers against teachers.
A copy of the petition is available online at www.rohan.sdsu.edu/.
—Lynn Olson firstname.lastname@example.org
A version of this article appeared in the June 13, 2001 edition of Education Week