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Protesters to Sen. Dean Skelos: Don't let test scores gain weight in teacher evaluations

Elias Mestizo, President of Hempstead Classroom Teachers Association,

Elias Mestizo, President of Hempstead Classroom Teachers Association, speaks as Long Island residents will ask Senator Dean Skelos not to fund an overhaul of teacher evaluations in the budget and to reject the proposed teacher performance rating system held outside Skelos' office on Front Street in Rockville Centre, Saturday, March 28, 2015. Photo Credit: Steve Pfost

A small group of protesters gathered in front of Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos' Rockville Centre office Saturday to demand that he reject giving greater weight to standardized test scores in teacher evaluations.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo this year proposed increasing the weight given to student test scores on teacher evaluations to 50 percent from 20 percent.

The protest, which drew 10 people, was organized by New York Communities for Change, a group that advocates for low- and moderate-income families on Long Island and in New York City.

"Senate Republicans need to stop doubling down on high-stakes testing," said Mimi Pierre Johnson, 52, a community organizer from Elmont. "Skelos needs to support teachers."

Elias Mestizo, 44, a teacher and president of the Hempstead Classroom Teachers Association, said increased reliance on testing to evaluate teachers could hinder recruiting educators for communities with minorities and high concentrations of immigrants.

"As teachers we are committed to helping students. However, who's going to want to come to communities where there is poverty, where there is testing that is not as high as other communities?" Mestizo said.

Cuomo's proposal could be included in the state budget that is due by Tuesday.

Skelos spokesman Scott Reif said in an email that the majority leader "believes that any approved education reforms within the state budget must include a plan on how to reduce state and local student testing and alleviate stress and anxiety for students, educators, and parents."

The protesters had planned to deliver a "report card" to Skelos' office but said they backed down after police told them not to enter the building. The protesters gave Skelos a D-.

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