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NYC Parents, Teachers Hold Protests Against Common Core Exams

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Parents, students, teachers and administrators rallied against Common Core testing on Friday after thousands of students opted out of the statewide English Language Art exam last week.

P.S. 87 on the Upper West Side was just one of 31 schools that held protests against the exam that many say was riddled with ambiguous and secretive questions.

"We're not sure if the results will actually reflect what the children truly know," P.S. 87 Principal Monica Berry told CBS 2's Diane Macedo.

"Parents are not allowed to see what's on the test, teachers are not allowed to see the graded tests that their students complete, so we are asking for transparency," said Ann Binstock, PTA co-president.

The tests are in conjunction with the Common Core learning standards, which have been adopted by most states.

Supporters say the goal is to teach kids to reason and not just memorize, but critics say they distract from learning and the standards are hurting students' education.

"They were being told, this may affect your promotion, this may affect whether you can go to fourth grade, you may have to go to summer school," said parent Michelle Lederman. "A lot of pressure for young children."

"By making everything about this test, they're sacrificing real learning," said parent Danny Katch.

Many students also had their own list of complaints.

"This year's test was extremely hard," one student said.

"This year was just too stressful," said another.

New York City's School Chancellor Carmen Farina says she hopes to alleviate some of that stress by forbidding educators from using test scores as the only way to determine whether students advance to the next grade.

"We're asking students and teachers to keep portfolios of their work and that they will be evaluated based on those portfolios," she said.

Speaking to teachers Thursday, New York state's education commissioner said he stands by Common Core, but seemed to support Farina's plan.

"New Common Core tests are a better reflection of the skills students need to succeed in college and careers," Commissioner John King said. "The challenge for the city is to make sure the review of student work process is as authentic and meaningful as possible and that the tests are indeed one of the multiple measures alongside that portfolio of student work."

But despite all the issues with the ELA test, many said they're not against the high standards set by Common Core or by standardized testing in general.

"We're not against testing or Common Core. We're against what our teachers say are wildly inappropriate tests," Binstock said.

The state said the tests were developed and reviewed by state teachers and field-tested with students across New York state.

The panel for educational policy is set to vote on a series of proposed changes next month, which Farina says will establish a new way forward that "maintains accountability, but mitigates the unintended consequences of relying solely on a single test."

The statewide math assessments are scheduled for April 30 through May 2.

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