BOSTON (AP) -- A group of more than 130 Massachusetts professors and researchers has sent a letter to state education officials urging them to stop relying on standardized test scores in judging school quality, teacher effectiveness and student achievement.

The letter Tuesday said standardized tests, including the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System, have fostered an "environment of intimidation, fear, anxiety, and stress" for teachers and students.

Monty Neill, executive director of FairTest, a research organization critical of standardized testing, says schools are becoming "test prep programs."

The letter includes recommendations, including ensuring that any new assessment system goes beyond paper-and-pencil tests in judging student performance.

State Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester tells The Boston Globe (http://b.globe.com/ZgqWdc ) he has not seen the letter but defended the MCAS, saying it is "important to measure performance and achievement."

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Information from: The Boston Globe, http://www.boston.com/globe