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NEW YORK - An online petitionto ban standardized testing for pre-kindergarten through second grade students has added new signatures by the minute, totaling more than 3,000 as of lateThursday night.

State teachers' unions have called for the state legislature to pass a ban for this age group, citing unnecessary pressures for the youngest students in the state. Buffalo Teachers Federation president Phil Rumore also supports the movement.

"We have kindergarteners filling in bubbles now. Kindergarteners," Rumore said. "That's sick."

Joseph Spector, our Gannett Albany Bureau Chief, published the following piece on Thursday:

ALBANY - Teachers' unions on Thrusday called for a ban on standardized tests for students in pre-kindergarten through second grade, saying school districts are turning to more testing to evaluate teachers.

The unions, the state United Teachers and United Federation of Teachers, said testing has grown among the youngest students -- who are being asked to fill out bubbles on multiple choice tests or answer questions on a computer.

The unions started a petition drive to call on the state Education Department and the state Legislature to prohibit standardized testing on the state's youngest students.

"We are hoping that sanity will prevail here," said Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers.

Last school year, the state Education Department launched the Common Core standards, which requires new testing of students in third through eighth grades. The state has also implemented new teacher evaluations, and school officials Thursday said the bubble tests are being increasinly used to evaluate teachers.

The program has been criticized by teachers, parents and students, but state officials said the initiative is needed to better prepare students for college and careers. The testing is being prepared by each school districts to evaluate teachers each year, critics said.

But adding testing for the youngest of students is overwhelming, critics said. They argued that young students are still developing cognitive skills and benefit from hands-on experiences in the classroom, not testing.

"There are other fairer ways to access student learning," said Peter DeWitt, principal at Poestenkill Elementary School near Albany.

The petition can be found at mac.nysut.org and at www.nysut.org

The State Education Department issued this statement from Commissioner John King:

"We support the drive to prohibit standardized testing of pre K through 2nd grade students.

"There are no pre-K - Grade 2 standardized tests administered or required by the state, and there never have been. Decisions about how to measure student progress in pre-K - Grade 2 are made by local school districts. However, we strongly recommend against the use of bubble tests or other traditional standardized tests and urge districts and their bargaining units to identify other ways to assess learning progress for these very young students.

"In fact, the Board of Regents has a long-standing policy against administering standardized tests to our very youngest students.

"We look forward to working together to make sure that children are protected from more testing than is necessary at the local school district level."

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