Parents and teachers rallied Thursday on street corners in at least 17 Long Island communities in a "Take Back the Classroom" protest against the Common Core curriculum and associated teacher evaluations.
They wore red shirts in solidarity and carried signs reading "Refuse the State tests" in gatherings from Merrick to Patchogue designed to tell Albany and Gov. Andrew Cuomo of their opposition to the state's education reform agenda.
In April, parents statewide pulled more than 200,000 students in grades three through eight out of testing in English language arts and mathematics. Long Island generated more than 70,000 opt-outs, the heaviest concentration in the state.
Parent leaders of the opt-out movement contend evaluations tied to test scores put too much pressure on students and teachers.
Jeanette Deutermann, the movement's organizer, joined more than 100 teachers and parents along Merrick Road in Merrick. Deutermann said she was disappointed by the Regents' decision this week to support Cuomo's push to make student performance count toward 50 percent of a teacher's rating. The Regents missed an opportunity to stand up against a flawed policy, she said.
She is hopeful, though, that state legislators ultimately will roll back some of Cuomo's reform measures.
"If you are hurting teachers, you are hurting students," she said. "You can't make life miserable for a teacher and expect that not to affect the classroom."
More than 100 protesters in Patchogue were joined by Assemb. Dean Murray (R-E. Patchogue), who serves on the education committee.
"We have to get back to real teaching not just teaching to the test," Murray said.
Darlene Mercurio, 64, of East Patchogue, has grandchildren in the South Country School District and said she joined the rally to "stop Common Core period."
"It's a developmentally inappropriate indoctrination of American children and American children deserve better," she said.
Patchogue-Medford Superintendent Michael J. Hynes also joined the group. He wrote a letter to his staff earlier this month slamming the state's performance-evaluation methodology linking ratings to students' test performance as "meaningless, invalid and inhumane."
"I'm here to support public education and our teachers and our principals" he said. "We need to show solidarity more than ever right now."
A spokesman for the New York State Department of Education declined to comment.
Standing inside John J. Burns Park in Massapequa, Cara Palermo, an art teacher at Farmingdale High School, said teacher evaluations should not be tied to test scores.
No matter how much a teacher strives to challenge students with unique learning opportunities, Palermo said, the focus on testing leads to standardized teaching.
Palermo, an educator for 16 years, is protesting what opponents call a corporate attack on public education.