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Parents: Testing Company Should Pay for Armonk Kids' Time

TARRYTOWN, N.Y. – The Pearson education company owes the public schools of the Tarrytowns a total of $20,000, the Elementary Parent-Teacher Association says.

That's the estimate from officials for the cost of administering state-mandated field tests to district students, which don't count for students' grades but try out questions for next year's standardized state tests. The Pearson-designed tests provided no educational benefit to students, the EPTA says.

"Those were hours taken away from valuable classtime and given for free to Pearson to focus-group their work," EPTA President David Neilsen said.

A coalition of parent groups throughout Westchester and Rockland counties is protesting the state's field testing, which took place in May and June. The group includes Scarsdale, Ossining, Ardsley, Dobbs Ferry, Harrison, Hastings and the Tarrytowns.

The dummy tests takes away classroom instruction time, parent groups say. The testing is used only to try out questions for future state assessments and not to provide instruction to students, they say.

Some parents have started online petitions that they plan to deliver to the New York State Education Department. Others organized testing boycotts and had students refuse to take the tests.

Parents in other parts of New York are denouncing the tests as well. More than 300 protesters gathered outside Pearson PLC in New York City last week. A spokesman for Pearson North America referred questions to the New York State Education Department, which did not return a request for comment.

The coalition is planning to hold a rally against the testing Thursday at 1 p.m. at Washington Irving Intermediate School in Tarrytown.

Online petitions started by Tarrytown and Irvington parents say the field testing is "in essence providing Pearson with free focus group testing."

"It is wrong for the New York State Department of Education to allow our children to be used without our knowledge, without our permission and without any offer of compensation to provide this service, which, in the free market, would cost Pearson millions of dollars, especially since field test questions were already embedded in the April state tests," the petition states.

Thursday's rally will include New York Board of Regents member Harry Phillips as well as Tarrytowns Superintendent Howard Smith, Neilsen said. The parent groups will hand over petitions and invoices, he said.

The $20,000 the EPTA estimates Pearson owes the Public Schools of the Tarrytowns is for teacher time and student participation.

"The state took time away from valuable classtime instruction," he said. "It's taking more time away from kids so they can't learn."

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