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June 11, 2013

Area teachers attend Albany rally

Staff and Wire Reports
The Daily Star

---- — At least 55 teachers and other area residents were among thousands rallying for public education in Albany on Saturday, local participants said.

Thunderous chants of “Get it right, get it right” echoed across the Empire State Plaza on Saturday afternoon as ten thousand people participated in a rally challenging testing programs and urging the state to reform its education agenda, according to the Associated Press.

New York State United Teachers President Richard C. Iannuzzi led the rally and gave a speech decrying the state’s standardized testing regimen.

“Get out of the way if you can’t lend a hand because every hand will be needed in the fight for the future,” Iannuzzi said, shaking his fist at a roaring crowd. He urged attendees to take a closer look at what he called the “testing and the achievement gap.”

Responding with chants and applause, educators from across the state voiced displeasure at a host of education practices, the AP reported.

NYSUT provided 225 buses for participants to travel from across the state to attend the event, officials said, and others traveled by car. 

About 40 people, including teachers, parents and concerned citizens, were on a bus from Oneonta, Michael Lynch, a NYSUT representative, said. 

Six teachers from the Bainbridge-Guilford Central School rode a bus from Sidney to Albany, Paul Davis, president of the Bainbridge-Guilford Teachers’ Association, said Monday. A group from Afton Central School also joined the rally, he said.

Davis said the rally was an energizing event that rekindled and focused the passion teachers have for their work helping students learn. Teachers are bearing the brunt of criticism targeted at education, he said, and the rally helped diffuse resulting depression.

Davis said he supports accountability but teacher evaluations shouldn’t be based so heavily on students’ test scores. The state should ``slow down’’ in implementing its programs, he said, and be clearer about expectations for teachers.

The rally was an opportunity for teachers to ``come together’’ on educational priorities and establish a common ground, Davis said.

“We do love working with children,’’ Davis said. Steps beyond the ``feel good moment’’ inspired by the rally might be talking to politicians, he said. 

Lynch agreed that the rally was exciting.

The event mobilized people to defend public schools against the corporatization of education, he said. More people will begin to speak out, he said, and there will be a more militant approach to teacher contracts.

“What’s good for the teacher is good for the students,” said Lynch, also a member of the Oneonta Common Council.

Rebecca Cordoba, a middle school teacher from Peekskill who attended the rally, also called for a reduction in mandated testing, the AP said.

According to the state’s current curriculum, the only way a student can show knowledge, she said, is by “filling in a bubble which that answers a question that is often written in a very misleading and tricky way.”

Also, frequent testing limits a teacher’s time in the classroom and takes away from more creative methods of teaching, she said.