PORT JEFFERSON STATION - Parents, teachers and students gathered in Port Jefferson Station today to rally against state-mandated school testing, an issue that's become hotly debated on Long Island after education officials revealed that test scores have dropped sharply across the state.

State education officials announced last week that just 37.5 percent of students in grades three through eight had passed newly updated math tests this year, a steep decline from the 75.4 percent who passed back in 2012. The number of students who passed state English tests was at just 39.6 percent, down from 67.2 percent from last year.

State Education Commissioner John King sought to ease concerns in a visit to Long Island yesterday. "We all want our children to succeed in college and their careers, and we know in order to accomplish that, we need to raise our expectations at every grade level," he said as he met with school officials from around the Island.

But the parents and teachers from Comsewogue School District who attended today's rally argue that enacting the harsh new testing standard isn't the way to foster improvement.

Joe Rella, superintendent of Comsewogue schools, agrees. He penned a letter to parents and teachers after the dismal test results were announced. "Children will not understand how they went from doing very well to failing in three years," he wrote. "The commissioner is telling them that they aren't learning less. They won't understand. I don't understand!"

Beth Dimino, of the Port Jeff Station teachers' association, says something has to be done. "There are people in power that are hurting our children," she says. "As the adults in the room, we have to make it stop."

An online petition has been started against the new state tests.