More than 2,500 parents and educators filled Buffalo's Kleinhans Music Hall to the last row of the balcony for a summit on testing that the Buffalo News characterized as "a groundswell... that became an earthquake Wednesday night."
Breaking frequently into a chant of "Get Testing Right!," audience members came from a wide range of Western New York communities to hear speakers' views on the impact of high-stakes testing.
The presentations provided reinforcement for NYSUT's call for a three-year moratorium on high-stakes consequences from the state's rocky rollout of new standardized tests.
The summit was organized by a grassroots group, The Partnership for Smarter Schools, that includes parents, administrators, higher education faculty and NYSUT leaders and members. It was hosted by State Sen. Tim Kennedy, D-Buffalo; Assemblyman Sean Ryan, D-Buffalo; and State Sen. George Maziarz, R-Newfane. Five other Western NewYork legislators also attended.
Maziarz urged the vociferous crowd to keep pushing for testing reform, including speaking out for legislative action. "First and foremost, keep prodding us," he said. "Hold all of us accountable."
Kenmore Teachers Association member Diane Miltz (pictured above), a fourth-grade teacher, has seen first-hand the stress high-stakes testing places on students. "The anxiety, the tears. That stress affects not just our classrooms but the entire school environment. The effect has been a narrowing of the curriculum I teach," she told the crowd.
Molly Dana (pictured above), with her two sons, Gus, 9, and Oliver, 6, read aloud a creative story she said epitomizes what learning should be about. "I stand here before you as a worried parent," she said. "Imagination and creativity are taking a back seat to the over-emphasis on testing. School is becoming more and more standardized."
Another parent brought many to tears when she shared how her son suffered devastating health consequences because of his stress over testing. Other speakers highlighted research supporting best practice in assessments and talked about the corporatization of testing.
The event, which received widespread news coverage, "is driven by parents who have seen the impact on their children," noted Don Benker, a member of the NYSUT Board of Directors.