OSSINING, N.Y. -- Ossining parents and teachers are hoping New York Commissioner of Education John B. King heard their voices and saw their signs of protest in Rochester Wednesday.
Dozens of concerned parents, teachers and students rallied in Rochester Wednesday afternoon after learning that King would be speaking to school officials in the area. The group of concerned citizens, known as the New York State Allies for Public Education, is hoping to change state standardized exams and hope to curb excessive testing.
NYSAPE co-organizer, parent and Ossining resident Lisa Rudley said the rally was vital despite the fact that King did not speak to or acknowledge the group Wednesday.
"We have two goals and that's to fight excessive testing and excessive data collection in our schools," Rudley said. "There is a big movement to digitize student records and many states have already pulled out of it. We know parents are concerned about their children's data being held in a cloud with no guarantee that it would be protected from third parties. So it is very important that we make ourselves heard to let them know that there is opposition to this and it's growing."
NYSAPE includes dozens of groups in New York, including Ossining Citizens for Schools and more than a hundred individual members from around Westchester County. The Wednesday rally was similar to the organization's first that was held in Syracuse in July and another that drew more than 2,000 people on Long Island last week, Rudley said.
"We're trying to gather folks who have like-minded missions of stopping excessive testing and data collection," she said. "We're hoping we'll eventually become a hub for everyone to come and see what is happening in education and organize so our voices are heard when it comes to our children's education."
Melissa Barber, a co-planner of Wednesday's rally and Rochester teacher, said she's hopeful about a response from King and others in the state Education Department as the group has several questions it would like answered.
"I would've liked to have asked him personally what he is going to do in regard to the thousands of students who opted out of these tests. He seems to be ignoring that and I think it's a huge factor," Barber said. "If he thinks it was just a few who opted out last year, I think he's going to be pretty surprised at how many opt out this year."
Barber added that she was proud to see so many concerned parents, students and teachers at the rally organizing peacefully.
"We feel like we're getting out and noticed and that's great," she said. "I've had teachers coming up to me telling me that they wish they had the courage to do this because they're fearful for their jobs. So am I. These state exams are part of my evaluation and if they're ineffective I could lose my job. So sure I'm worried but that's why I'm fighting. That's why we're all fighting."
Last weekend, nearly 2,000 parents and teachers, including members of NYSAPE, attended a protest rally in Long Island, expressing their opposition to these unfair and invalid exams.
Parents, educators and concerned citizens are asked to visit the NYSAPE website to learn more about the organization and its progress.