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Inwood Schools Join Citywide Protest Against Cuomo's Education Agenda

 Students, parents and teachers from Muscota and Amistad took part in a citywide protest on Thursday.
Inwood Schools Join Forces to Protest Cuomo's Education Agenda
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INWOOD — Dozens of protesters formed a "human chain" around two uptown schools Thursday morning to protest Governor Cuomo’s new education agenda, including a proposal to evaluate teachers more heavily based on standardized tests scores.

A group of about 50 parents, students and teachers gathered at the Muscota New School and Amistad Dual Language School, linking hands as part of a citywide effort to stand up against what they call an attack on public education. The group also held signs bearing messages saying, "I trust teachers more than I trust Cuomo." 

They called on the governor to increase funding to public schools, to limit charter school expansion, and most importantly, to back off on his recent proposal to tie 50 percent of teacher's evaluation to students' standardized tests scores. The current system bases only 20 percent of teacher's evaluations on those test scores.

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Gretchen Mergenthaler, the parent of a seventh-grader at Amistad, said she has already seen the negative affects of schools that put too much emphasis on standardized tests, noting Cuomo's new proposal would only make it worse.

“We disagree with 50 percent or really any high percentage of standardized testing being used to evaluate teachers,” said Mergenthaler, 49.

“Field trips have been diminished. Creative teaching has been diminished. Deviating from the curriculum for teaching moments has happened less and less often because teachers feel that they have no other choice but to teach for the test.” 

Heidi Flores, whose 8-year-old daughter attends Muscota, is trying to convince her daughter to opt out of this year’s third-grade exam to save her child the extra burden, she said.

“It’s a lot of pressure,” said Flores, 35. “She was in the hospital two days ago, and she didn’t want to miss any day because she was so stressed thinking she’s going to miss instruction and she’s not going to be ready.”

Finley Sklar, 14, was especially concerned about the growth of charter schools. Manhattan East, where he attends, currently shares a building with multiple schools, including more than one charter, he said.

“I believe Governor Cuomo doesn’t have the right to take money away from schools and to put it toward charter schools,” Sklar said. “My school now is trying to be pushed out by multiple charter schools. We’ve had the building there for years but because of charter schools, we almost lost our space several times.”

Steven Powers, who has been the library teacher at Amistad for 13 years, is hopeful that cooperation between teachers and the governor could ultimately improve school life for students.

“Sometimes I feel that we are portrayed as being against the kids and he is for the kids,” he said. “If only we could get on the same page and figure things out, that’s the solution, not pitting us against each other.”

Several other District 6 schools took part in the citywide event — which was organized in conjunction with Class Size Matters and the United Federation of Teachers — including P.S. 187, P.S. 178 and P.S. 153.