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Know Your Rights
Source: The New York Times
Subject: Education Justice
Type: Media Coverage

As Parents Protest, Chancellor and Panel Leave

Angry parents** protested a falloff in test scores at a meeting of a citywide education panel on Monday night, prompting its members and the schools chancellor to walk out.

Forty-five minutes into the hearing, as a crowd of about 100 people jeered and chanted slogans, the chancellor, Joel I. Klein, and the members of the Panel for Educational Policy left the stage. They did not return, choosing to reschedule the meeting, as parents marched the aisles of the auditorium at Murry Bergtraum High School in Lower Manhattan and took turns expressing their outrage over a bullhorn.

“This is a call to all those in charge at the Department of Education,” shouted Esperanza Vazquez of Morrisania. “Do your work for our children.”

The upheaval began after Mr. Klein, among others on the stage, said that despite the drop in this year’s scores after the state recalibrated its standardized exams, students citywide were still making substantial progress, based on graduation rates and other data.

In response, a panelist, Patrick Sullivan, moved to open the floor to public comments about test scores. Though a second panelist, Anna Santos, seconded the motion, it was denied by the chairman, David C. Chang, who pointed out that time for comments had been allotted after scheduled business.

With that, the crowd erupted into boos and chants of “Let the parents speak.”

“Where is the accountability?” asked Evelyn Feliciano of West Tremont, in the Bronx, who said her son’s scores had dropped drastically.

The testing changes, which were designed to make them more rigorous, caused fewer students to pass and made gaps in achievement among racial and ethnic groups more pronounced. More than half of all students failed English, and only 54 percent passed math.

While similar results were seen statewide, it was a particular disappointment to city officials, who had cited the success in raising test scores since 2002.

“It’s extremely unfortunate that parents who came to voice their opinions before the panel could not be heard tonight because a small, unruly group refused to respect the process and wait for the public comment period to begin,” Natalie Ravitz, a spokeswoman for the Department of Education, said in a statement.

“Their shouting and screaming proved too disruptive for the panel to continue meeting, and rather than be heard, these individuals sabotaged their chance to speak and derailed important public business,” Ms. Ravitz said.

**Including members of Make the Road New York (MRNY).