By Daniel Wallis
DENVER (Reuters) - Thousands of Denver-area high school students skipped state-mandated science and social studies tests this week and some staged street protests in the latest dispute to hit Colorado education since a flare-up over history curricula.
Nearly 1,900 high school seniors in Douglas County failed to take the newly introduced Colorado Measures of Academic Success tests, while about 1,500 pupils missed them in each of two other districts, Boulder Valley and Cherry Creek, media reports said.
Critics say the tests do not represent what is taught in state high schools, and that preparing for them wastes valuable classroom time and stretched resources.
"Practically no teachers or students were involved in the passing of this legislation," Chaya Wurman, one of the organizers and a senior at Boulder's Fairview High School, said in a video statement.
"We're being tested on things that we have never learned before, or haven't learned in years," she said, adding that many students believe they would not do well on the tests.
The debate, which is unrelated to the Common Core educational standards adopted by many states in 2010, comes after a dispute over an advanced placement history course that saw more than 1,000 students protest in another Denver-area school district in September.
That was part of a liberal-conservative fight over curricula, while this week's controversy is tied to the broader debate over the value of standardized testing.
Several students demonstrated in frigid conditions on Thursday outside Fairview High, some waving home-made placards reading "Education not standardization."
Students at 10 schools including Fairview wrote an open letter outlining their opposition, for instance that CMAS includes economics even though that topic is not a required subject for Colorado high school pupils.
Colorado Department of Education Commissioner Robert Hammond said he hears the concerns about the quantity and timing of tests, and wants the process to be better.
"I understand the frustration," Hammond said in a statement cited by Boulder's Daily Camera newspaper. "I am fully committed to evaluating how the testing goes and working with districts and policymakers to identify ways to improve."
A state task force is seeking public input on how to improve the system and is to report back in January.
(Reporting by Daniel Wallis; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)