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Ossining Parents Protest Pearson's Focus Testing

TARRYTOWN, N.Y. – Irvington resident Tanya Hunt says the idea of trying out questions for future state assessments isn't what has angered so many parents throughout Westchester.

It's the fact the testing company, Pearson, decided to create a whole other test to do so when sample questions already were added to the actual state assessments students took in April.

"Now they did a whole other day that was solely devoted to field test questions that took away another day of instruction, took another day away of student learning, took away time and money from the district without any kind of compensation,” she said.

Hunt is the upcoming Parent-Teacher Association president and one of several representatives from districts throughout the county to show up for a rally Thursday against recent testing conducted in many school districts at the end of May and early June. The state-mandated tests were used to determine which questions should be on next year's state assessment tests.

The rally was outside Washington Irving Intermediate School in Tarrytown. It included parent-teacher association representatives from Irvington, Tarrytown, Ossining, Dobbs Ferry and Somers, as well as New York State Board of Regents member Harry Phillips. Representatives presented petitions and expressed their frustrations to Phillips.

Tarrytown Elementary Parent-Teacher Association President David Neilsen helped organize the rally and said representatives from Hastings were involved in the protest, but were unable to come. Neilsen said other school districts, such as Harrison and Scarsdale, also have been upset about the recent testing.

Neilsen and the Tarrytown Elementary Parent-Teacher Association made up symbolic invoices for Pearson that totaled slightly more than $20,000 for the use of teacher and student time in the testing.

“These tests were done 100 percent for free, focus group testing for the company Pearson,” he told the small crowd, later adding that parents would “like a stake in some of this. We're objecting to the continual use of field testing.”

Phillips told those in attendance he also did not like the recent testing and said the Board of Regents had made the wrong decision because of the longevity of the tests and their poor quality.

“Field testing will not happen in the same way next year,” he said.

Lisa Radley said many Ossining parents “just didn't know” about the testing. Radley is the president of Ossining Citizens for Schools and the Special Education Parent-Teacher Organization. She said many Ossining parents are concerned about standardized testing in general because it takes a lot of time to prepare students to take the tests.

“What is the outcome of all these tests?” she asked. “Are we really better off? That's a question that I don't think anyone can answer.”

Hunt said many Irvington parents understand that questions need to be tried out before they count so the state and Pearson know what's going to work. But, she said, they object to how it was handled this year.

“Everybody I know of who found out about it and knew about it said they didn't like the way it was done,” she said.

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